On Saturday, New York City FC faced FC Cincinnati in the third matchup of the year between the two. The Pigeons have lost the previous two, which were the first losses against the Orange and Blue.
Before the fixture could begin, NYCFC announced that James Sands and Santiago Rodríguez were out due to lower body injuries. Then, Maxime Chanot was missing from the Starting XI and the bench. No one knew why the center-back was not available; surely there was no way he was out due to a coaching decision. That would have been irresponsible by Nick Cushing.
In spite of the missing players, the Starting XI was one of the stronger ones. Expectations were still low since the road is not friendly for the Queens team. It would take mistakes from Cincinnati for them to drop any points at home.
It was NYCFC who made the mistakes. The Pigeons fell on the road by a 3-0 scoreline. Defensive mishaps and Cushing's decisions are to blame for the loss.
Poor defensive moments and coaching decisions led to the loss
Bad luck struck early for New York City FC. Cincinnati went up a goal in the 6th minute due to a header by Aaron Boupendza. Initially, Bret Halsey had a shot that was saved by Luis Barraza. But Boupendza was not marked properly by Thiago Martins and Birk Risa. As a result, he put the ball back into the net.
The Pigeons might have gone down early, but that did not break them entirely. The rest of the first half was mostly an even battle. Each side shared bouts of possession; the difference was that the Orange and Blue had more shots on target.
Still, it felt like NYCFC was knocking on the door as the fixture went into the second half. That did not last long, for the home team scored again in the 52nd minute. The Pigeons tried to recover the ball in their own half, but it backfired. This allowed Luciano Acosta to obtain the ball on the left side of the pitch. He made his run, sent the ball into the box, and Júnior Moreno was there. He power-housed the ball into the goal and set his team on the road to victory.
Things then became uglier for NYCFC. Nick Hagglund put his team up 3-0 in the 59th after terrible defending. Arguably, this came after Cushing’s substitutes. He took off Mounsef Bakrar and Mitja Ilenič. In their places, he sent on Talles Magno and Andres Jasson. It looked like the team changed their formation at that point as well. As such, there was a poor defensive setup, and Cincinnati took their chance.
Honestly, Cushing’s changes were poor. It felt like the team became more vulnerable on the defensive end. Offensively, no one added anything that was missing prior to the substitutes. He took Maxi Moralez and Julián Fernández off when both were playing solid games on the night. Magno was forced to play in the striker role, despite the obvious knowledge that he should be on the wings.
The loss was expected, but it was still a rough one. The players had moments where they looked like a team that could pounce on the league leaders. Sadly, that was not meant to be.
Meanwhile, Moralez was a bright light during a dark evening. He was everywhere during his time on the pitch. Seeing him play the way he did was a breath of fresh air. He was on both sides of the wings, in the attacking midfield, the center midfield, and had moments where he traveled to the defensive midfield. He was constantly looking for his teammates and had a few solid passes. Yet, his impact on the offensive end was limited due to the inability to score and because some of his teammates were not readily available.
Thankfully, the next five games will be at home. New York City FC will face CF Montréal at Yankee Stadium in their next battle on Wednesday. The Canadian team is the lone side New York City FC has beaten on the road. Perhaps this will be the team that sets them on a home-win streak. After this loss, it is needed… badly.