Richie Laryea appeared on Saturday at BMO Field as the ghost of Ronald Matarrita’s past.
As he did on October 23, 2019 in the knockout playoff match at Citi Field, Laryea haunted New York City FC’s left back in Toronto FC’s 1-0 triumph before an announced crowd of 26,171 in the Reds’ home opener.
The picture of Matarrita sobbing after the final whistle in the 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinal defeat last fall is an image that symbolized the playoff failures for the Pigeons.
Matarrita committed a reckless foul in the area on the streaking Laryea and the subsequent penalty by Alejandro Pozuelo in the 90th minute produced a 2-1 upset in Queens.
The result marked the fourth consecutive season that City were eliminated in the Conference semifinals.
“You have to learn to deal with mistakes and deal with losses” said NYCFC radio commentator Matt Lawrence in his pregame comments on Saturday. Lawrence was drawing from his experience as a former Millwall, Crystal Palace and Fulham central defender.
“We know it’s going to be on his mind – he’s a human being and you know he’s going to be thinking about it,” he said. “What we need to see is how has he learned from that. Let’s not see him make a similar type mistake.”
Matarrita failed to escape the ignominy of an untimely error on Saturday and Laryea played a role in the gaff deep into the latest NYCFC loss to the Reds.
The Costa Rican international spun an unwarranted first-time ball across the midfield that was intercepted by Infunanyachi Achara, igniting a counter attack that led to Achara’s first career goal in his professional debut.
Laryea was the menace leading up to the game’s lone finish. While not credited with an assist, his potent service from the right flank was deflected slightly by Matarrita and into the path of the surging Achara at the back post.
For the second time in as many matches in the series, Laryea tormented Matarrita to force a late game-winner.
“Not to take away from Laryea’s quality but we have quality as well,” NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was forced into eight saves, said. “It’s no point in looking at one individual player and what they’ve done against us. It’s just a tough moment.”
On Saturday, Laryea was inserted with a little over a half hour to play and his initial one-on-one confrontation with Matarrita was a victory for the City left back.
But Laryea began to find success, as he forced the 25-year old defender into a deeper, more protective position. In the 81st minute, Matarrita was liable on the lethal turnover that sent City home with its second consecutive defeat to open the regular season.
New York City head coach Ronny Deila was inadvertently prescient in a pregame briefing with Pro Soccer USA.
“I think we can have the top level and suddenly we do things that I can’t understand we do.”
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