Before New York City FC could even start the match, fans were up in arms over Nick Cushing’s Starting XI against Charlotte FC. It is understandable, for the U.S. Open Cup fixture will be played on Wednesday, but the Pigeons have been terrible on the road. The team needs their best players, so it was shocking the head coach rotated more than one starter.
In this match, Alfredo Morales, Tayvon Gray, and Andres Jasson started over Maxime Chanot, Mitja Ilenič, and Talles Magno. While Gray can hold his own, the other two were surprise moves, and immediately the concerns were there. At this point, Charlotte was a team that could be beaten. Of course, the team that plays well at home had to show up.
Additionally, Cushing mentioned in his press conference how rotation will be vital for the upcoming weeks. With that being said, the focus should be on the regular season, for the Pigeons are in their current road stretch. Moreover, fans cannot help but wonder whether Chanot’s and Magno’s benching was the result from their confrontation at the end of the Toronto match.
No matter the reason, the lineup put out was of great concern, and fans were right to feel that way. The Pigeons ended up losing, 3-2, in what was a crazy game from the start. Bad luck and poor defense, and possibly Cushing’s original lineup, were to blame.
NYCFC falls in Charlotte due to bad luck and bad defense
Unfortunately, bad luck struck early for New York City FC, both via goals and injury. Poor defending, and a good pass by Orrin McKinze Gaines II in the eighth minute, put Charlotte in front after a fantastic tap in by Enzo Copetti. James Sands and Thiago Martins both failed to get the stop, and there was no one in front of Copetti to block the shot.
Then, Gray was injured, and had to come off in the 16th minute. As a result, Ilenič had to be substituted on, which in turn crushed the idea of rotation for the right-backs.
However, NYCFC was able to get one back in the 37th. A fantastic through pass by Richard Ledezma to Gabriel Pereira opened up the space near goal. Pereira was in a 1 V 1 battle with a Charlotte defender, and used trickery to move the player where he wanted. The Brazilian then scored to bring the match level.
Yet, that did not last for long. The Pigeons are notoriously terrible with defending set pieces, and Charlotte took advantage of that just two minutes later. The home team had a corner kick, and Justin Meram sent the ball right to the star of the show, Copetti. The forward headed the ball into the back of the net, and put his team ahead for the second time that night.
The second half saw Magno come on for Jasson, and the attack was completely changed. The passing and flow in the final third was stronger, and Magno was an immediate difference on the left side of the pitch. But it was a penalty that saw NYCFC level again. A foul on Braian Cufré in the box allowed Santiago Rodríguez to take the penalty kick, and with power, he beat the goalkeeper on pace to tie the game in the 57th minute.
Still, that too would not last long, for the Pigeons scored an own goal via Ledezma thanks to a free kick by Charlotte in the 74th. The own goal would be the deciding factor, which is rough since the midfielder had a great match. The bad luck was there, but again, the set piece defending has to be better.
Overall, this was a much stronger performance compared to the fixture against Toronto FC. The team was stronger offensively, and played like they wanted to get the win. They had ten shots, with six on target, and led with about 58% of the possession. In fact, it was thought the team with the control of possession would end up with the three points. Sadly, the defense failed the Bronx side this time, and the inability score that third, and then fourth goal.
Now, New York City FC has another tough road test ahead of them, for they take on FC Cincinnati this Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup. Based on the road results, it is difficult to see the team moving on. The road struggles continue, and there is no end in sight.