New York City FC: Players to watch

CF Montreal will attempt to advance to its first Association final since 2016 on Sunday at Stade Saputo. Nothing is won in advance for the men of Wilfried Nancy, who will face New York City FC.

Holder of the third rank in the East, the troop of Nick Cushing counts on several players who could cause headaches to the Montreal eleven. Here are five:

Sean Johnson (goalkeeper)

We might be surprised to find a goaltender at the top of the list, but Johnson is part of the crème de la crème of goalkeepers on the Garber circuit along with Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union. Not only did he play all of the minutes for the New York club, but Johnson was second in Major League Soccer (MLS) in shutouts (14). Demystifying the American goaltender will be a great challenge for the Montreal attack, which was the fifth most productive in the league in 2022.

Santiago Rodríguez (midfielder)

In their 3-0 victory over Inter Miami in the first round, the NYCFC could count on a Rodriguez in full possession of his means. True to form as a maestro of the New York attack, the little Uruguayan was an accomplice to his club’s first two successes. He led his team with 13 assists in 2022, as well as having threaded the needle four times. Rodriguez’s Achilles heel, however, is quite apparent: his hot temper. No player has received more yellow cards during the season than Rodriguez (12).

Alexander Callens (central defender)

Named to the MLS All-Star Team alongside Johnson, Callens is the backbone of the Big Apple team. In addition to providing stability in the defensive curtain, the Peruvian has undeniable offensive skills, as evidenced by his five goals in 2022. The 30-year-old defender is also a regular on big occasions: it’s his net in training sessions shots on goal that made the difference in the MLS Cup final in 2021 against the Portland Timbers.

Heber (attacker)

Since the departure of Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, loaned to the Spanish first division, the New York attack has rested on the shoulders of Talles Magno and Héber. Although they lacked the finishing talents of the rising Argentine star, the Brazilian duo sparkled late in the season. Héber has only had nine starts in 2022, but he still finished second on his team in goals scored (8). Talles Magno, meanwhile, was forced to forfeit ahead of the game against Inter Miami and remains a doubt for Sunday.

Maximiliano Moralez (midfielder)

Despite his tiny frame ー 5’3”, 115 lbs according to the MLS website, to be exact ー, Moralez is an integral part of NYCFC success. He was an accomplice to nine successes in 2022, in addition to being the second player tied for the most tackles in his formation (30). Aged 35, Moralez is one of the leaders of his team, he who notably played 137 games in the Italian Serie A with the Atalanta club.

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