A trio of goals against Toronto FC leads NYCFC to the first road victory of 2024

  • NYCFC traveled to Canada to take on Toronto FC
  • The game was full of drama and goals
  • The Pigeons ended with their first road win after they defeated the Reds 3-2
Malachi Jones of NYCFC
Malachi Jones of NYCFC / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a decent homestand, New York City FC finally found themselves on the road again for the first time in over a month.  The team headed north to face Toronto FC, in which the Bronx side beat them earlier in the season.  It was the first time in 2024 that they faced the former captain, Sean Johnson, for he missed the earlier fixture.

With a game on Wednesday, Nick Cushing opted to rotate the lineup by putting Alonso Martínez as the striker.  In addition, Tayvon Gray and Andrés Perea were in the Starting XI while Malachi Jones started his first game for NYCFC.  Notably, the struggling Mounsef Bakrar was not part of the match-day squad.

It was an interesting lineup, especially with the options Cushing could have used on the wings, and still rotate.  Jones has had glimpses of what he can do, but there is no question the rookie has a lot of learning to do in his first professional season.  The head coach could have gone with Julián Fernández or Agustín Ojeda on the wings with Hannes Wolf and rotated for Wednesday by switching one of the three.  If Talles Magno is fit enough to play a half, then he could have been utilized as well.

The questions were there about Jones’ start but he proved the doubters wrong by scoring his first goal, helping lead NYCFC to a 3-2 win.  The first road victory was full of drama, but it was the goals that shined.

NYCFC finally wins on a road for the first time in 2024

NYCFC was able to score first after a VAR review for a handball.  Matty Longstaff had his arm away from his body and tried to bring it down as the ball hit him.  After review, the Pigeons were given the penalty call, which MVP contender Santiago Rodríguez took.  He sent Johnson the other way and put the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal in the 23rd minute.  It was a brilliantly taken penalty kick, and it added another goal to the midfielder’s tally.

As mentioned, Jones proved everyone wrong with how he played.  He drew plenty of fouls and was an offensive threat.  He had two shots with two on target.  It was the 44th minute when he scored his first goal in Major League Soccer.  He swept the ball towards goal, and it hit the bottom right post.  Like a pinball machine, it bounced into the back of the net.

NYCFC did give up a goal in the 55th minute to Federico Bernardeschi after Toronto came out swinging in the second half.  Then, they scored their second in the 89th thanks to a diagonal shot from Raoul Petretta.

Regardless of the goals, the defense was mostly able to do their job, allowing for more chances as the game progressed.  Without Matt Freese and his superb performance, the Reds likely would have scored more, changing the outcome.  The goalkeeper was alert for every single minute and had nine saves.  Two goals were given up, but that was due to mistakes in the backline, who still had numerous blocks and clearances to keep the Pigeons in the game.

That is why NYCFC was not finished with their scoring.  In the 78th minute, Ojeda was aware of his surroundings and saw Wolf coming up to his left.  He passed the ball to his fellow winger, who moved toward the goal line.  Picking out Perea, he sent the ball between Johnson and a Toronto defender, and the midfielder tapped the ball home.  This had put the Pigeons up 3-1 and was the winning goal in the end.

The goals were great, but one cannot leave out the drama and fighting that happened, especially towards the end.  Clashes and pushing increased, and after the final whistle blew, numerous players had to be separated.  If anyone watches baseball, the end of the match was similar to when the dugouts clear after a pitcher hits a player.  The craziness makes one wonder what consequences will occur due to the clashes.

Nevertheless, NYCFC can feel good about the result, for they not only scored three goals for the first time this season but won their first road match.  This should act as a confidence booster heading into Wednesday’s fixture against the Philadelphia Union.