Talles Magno of New York City FC, top, celebrate with...

Talles Magno of New York City FC, top, celebrate with teammates after scoring against Guatemala's Comunicaciones, during the second leg quarterfinal Concacaf Champions League soccer match in Guatemala City, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Credit: AP/Moises Castillo

New York City FC did enough to get by for large stretches of Tuesday’s match against Comunicaciones FC. Yet as stoppage time approached, it seemed as though everything NYCFC had built was slipping away.

After an efficient opening 65 minutes in the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup in Guatemala City, NYCFC had just two shots on target, yet held a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard as it successfully absorbed attacking pressure. The advantage in away goals and a 5-2 aggregate lead were in City’s favor.

But a quick burst of Comunicaciones goals in the 69th and 72nd minute suddenly cut NYCFC’s lead to one, and a stunning shot in the 88th left the aggregate score level at 5-5 with the away goal tiebreaker as City’s lone advantage.

Still, NYCFC was able to weather the storm, including six minutes of stoppage time, and advanced to the Champions League semifinals for the first time in club history.

NYCFC striker Valentín Castellanos was critical on both of his side’s goals, scoring the opener on a free kick in the 31st minute and assisting on Talles Magno’s headed score in the 63rd minute.

Comunicaciones scored one late in the first half, with Andrés Lezcano beating Thiago Martins before sending a shot past Sean Johnson in the 45th minute. Nicolas Samoya and Lynner García both scored from close range to tighten the gap in the second half. Jose Contreras netted the goal of the night with a long-distance first-time hit that turned Johnson to stone in the closing minutes of regulation.

The extended stoppage time was not enough for Comunicaciones, however. A few missed shots and blocks later, the final whistle sent City to the semifinal.

NYCFC reaches this stage of the competition for the first time in its second appearance. In 2020, City was eliminated by Tigres UANL of Liga MX in a bizarre quarterfinal with nine months between the two legs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result makes NYCFC the first club to reach this year’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. City will face either the Seattle Sounders or Club León of Liga MX in the next round. The Sounders visit León for the second leg of their matchup on Thursday after a 3-0 victory in Seattle last week.

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