New York City FC went into the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday with feelings of hope, but also despair. The team had lost another tough road match this past weekend, for an own goal from Richard Ledezma saw Charlotte FC win its third straight over the Pigeons.
However, the team had a much stronger performance compared to other road games, so there was some hope that emerged from it. Still, expectations were low for the U.S. Open Cup, for they were on the road once more to face FC Cincinnati.
The Orange and Blue, like the Bronx team, have been struggling to score. The difference though is that they have been the better defensive team, so NYCFC supporters knew the match would be a tough one. In addition, Nick Cushing put out a lineup that did not necessarily enact confidence in the fixture. At the same time, Cincinnati also rotated some of their players, but still seemed to have put out a stronger Starting XI.
That was why it was not shocking NYCFC lost again on the road, 1-0, losing for the first time against Cincinnati. Both teams struggled to get the goals, but it was the Ohio team who was a little stronger defensively.
NYCFC is out of the U.S. Open Cup after one game
Before New York City FC could even take the pitch, the bad luck that plagued them over the weekend followed them to Ohio. Alfredo Morales, who was supposed to make the start, suffered an injury during warmups. Instead, Justin Haak started next to James Sands.
Thankfully, Tayvon Gray, who left the Charlotte game early, was okay, and able to start this fixture. So in some ways, good luck was around too. Perhaps that was why the Pigeons were able to put in a decent shift during the first half. They did not score, but led with over 57% of the possession. The passing was smooth, and there were not many nervous moments. Plus, defensively they were on point; the five-man backline limited Cincinnati to three shots.
Although, all three of those shots were on target, but Matt Freese came to play, for he saved all three shots. They were not easy ones either, for the backup goalkeeper made incredible save after incredible save. The most impressive one came in the 16th minute, when Brandon Vazquez took a stellar outside-of-the-box shot toward the upper part of the center of goal. This forced Freese to react quicker than a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby, and push the ball over the bar.
Notably, Freese had a good night between the sticks. The goalkeeper had four saves total, and was alert throughout the 90 minutes plus stoppage time. He knew when to move away from his goal, and kept the Pigeons in the game.
It was the second half though that the bad luck festered in completely, and reminded NYCFC that they could play well, but the road woes always lurked behind.
Cincinnati was awarded a corner kick, which the Pigeons defended well against throughout the match. At least, that was until the 56th minute. The ball was served into the box, and who was there to meet the ball with his head? Why, it was Vazquez, who forced the ball into the net. It was another set piece, and another goal given up, that led to the Bronx side being down, 1-0.
As such, that would be the game winner, and unfortunately NYCFC could not find the scoring boots. Even when Cushing brought on Gabriel Pereira, Ledezma, and Santiago Rodríguez in the 61st, they could not find the back of the net. It actually took 79 minutes for the team to register a shot on target, and that was the only one. The three substitutes did aid in the attacking sequences, but it was not enough.
The difficulties on the road continued in Ohio. The concerns continue to grow as well, but it needs to be said that the performance was decent. Some players, like Freese and Haak, showed they can keep up with the regular starters. The work in the midfield, and then the passing overall, was mostly spot on. The issues this time around was the lack of goals… again.
Therefore, this loss was not surprising, and that is why New York City FC has some work to do before the Hudson River Derby this weekend. They need to find a way to win, especially on the road. Will they find a way to do that? Only time will tell.