3 things we learned from NYCFC's expected loss against FC Cincinnati

  • NYCFC lost on the road again
  • This time, the loss was to FC Cincinnati
  • Here are three things we learned from the loss
Matt Freese of NYCFC
Matt Freese of NYCFC / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, New York City FC played against FC Cincinnati on a chilly night.  The Pigeons were without nine players, forcing Nick Cushing to play around with his lineup.  The evening saw Strahinja Tanasijević earn his first start in the 3-4-3 lineup.  With the missing right-backs, this put Andres Jasson as a right-wing-back.  However, with the Serbian defender in the Starting XI, he was easily able to step into the right-back role on the attack.

While the play was decent, NYCFC failed to score on the road, losing to Cincinnati.  The Pigeons lost just 1-0, but the one mistake in the backline was all Luciano Acosta needed to put his side ahead.

Except for the goal, NYCFC’s defense had a decent performance.  Five at the back was working, but the lack of clear-cut chances on the offensive end was missing in action.  There was a reason the goal concerns remained despite winning against Toronto FC the previous weekend.

There is quite a bit to cover from NYCFC’s loss. Here are three things we learned from the match.

3 things we learned from NYCFC's 1-0 loss

1. Injury concerns for Birk Risa and Kevin O’Toole

Early in the second half, center-back Birk Risa went down with a possible leg injury.  He had a successful interception, but unfortunately hurt himself in the process.  He knew he had to go off, and made the change motion to the staff.  He was substituted off in the 52nd minute.

Hence, NYCFC will now have to see what the severity of the injury is.  Risa has done well, especially after Maxime Chanot’s departure.  Losing him would be a blow to the backline.

Risa was not the only injury, for Kevin O’Toole went down on the ground hard.  He was shaky and unable to pass the concussion test.  Subsequently, he was taken off in the 78th minute.  It was clear he needed to go off since he was shaky.

This is concerning, but it is wonderful that NYCFC took the possible concussion seriously.  Safety always comes first.  Now, everyone will have to wait and see what the diagnoses are for the two players.

2. No Gray or Ilenič? No problem!

NYCFC was without Tayvon Gray and Mitja Ilenič due to international duty.  There were questions and concerns about what Cushing would do.  For the head coach, Tanasijević was the answer.  The defender is a center-back by trade but can play on the right side.

As mentioned, Cushing utilized the 3-4-3 to have three center-backs in the back.  The first-year NYCFC player slotted into the right center-back position.  However, on the attack, he moved more to the right, turning into the right-back.  This allowed Jasson to play forward more as a right midfielder.  This flexibility was helpful for the backline with the two main right-backs missing.

Tanasijević did an okay job as well.  He went forward a few times, but most of his good work was on the defense.  There were times when he limited the Orange and Blue’s chances.  There were also some moments where he might have been risky with his challenges and failed to get stops on the right side.  It was not perfect, but the temporary fix was sufficient.

That is not to say the Serbian should start when the right-backs return.  However, if Risa’s injury requires him to miss time, then Tanasijević will likely see more time in the Starting XI.

3. Matt Freese is becoming a solid goalkeeper

There was no question Matt Freese deserved to be the first-choice goalkeeper at the end of 2023 and for this season.  He has been superb, even during losses like this one in Cincinnati.  Undoubtedly, NYCFC would have been down by two or three goals.  Sure, they still lost, but he kept the Pigeons in the game.

On the night, Freese had five saves.  He was focused in his box, so he always made the right decisions on when to move away from goal and when to catch the ball.  The Acosta goal was difficult to stop, and without the defensive mistake of players moving forward, the goal might have not happened.

Of course, one goal is all it took for NYCFC to lose.  The performance from Freese was at least a positive to come out of the game.