NYCFC ends playoff dream for Inter Miami, Gonzalo Higuain

Gabriel Pereira and Maxi Moralez scored goals six minutes apart in the second half to lift defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC to a 3-0 victory over visiting Inter Miami CF in the first round of the playoffs on Monday night.

Heber added a late insurance goal for Eastern Conference No. 3 seed NYCFC, which has now won four in a row heading into Sunday's East semifinals at No. 2 seed CF Montreal.

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Santiago Rodriguez assisted the first two goals, and Moralez also had an assist on Pereira's opener.

Miami's defeat marks the end of the career of striker Gonzalo Higuain, who announced weeks ago he would be retiring following the season.

Higuain, 34, led Miami with 16 goals after a slow start to his third season in MLS, which followed a decorated career that included a World Cup runners-up finish with Argentina in 2014 and three league titles each with Real Madrid in Spain and Juventus in Italy.

The Herons won four games in a row to reach the playoffs, but lost their regular-season finale 3-1 at home to Montreal before getting shut out by New York City.

Pereira put NYCFC into the lead in the 63rd minute on his team's first clear chance of the second half.

New York City FC players celebrate after scoring a goal against Inter Miami in MLS.
New York City FC players celebrate after scoring a goal against Inter Miami in MLS.
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Rodriguez reached a long ball over the top and beat two defenders to find some space just above the penalty area. Pereira made a run down the right and hammered a first-touch strike into the top left corner after Rodriguez picked him out.

Moralez doubled the lead in the 69th minute on a wonderful attack. Anton Tinnerholm took a pass on the right wing and drove toward the corner of the penalty area, then slipped a pass to Rodriguez sprinting toward the near post.

Rodriguez backheeled the ball to Moralez, who guided his first-touch shot past Miami goalie Drake Callender and off the far left post.

Heber capitalized on a misplayed Miami pass and finished past a stranded Callender in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.

Callender was credited with five saves while NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson stopped four shots.