VAR hands NYCFC another frustrating loss to end a long week

-NYCFC played against Atlas F.C. on Sunday night

-VAR led to the loss in the first game of the Leagues Cup

NYCFC / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The last time New York City FC and Atlas F.C. met each other, the Pigeons left Yankee Stadium with a 2-0 win over their Mexican counterparts. It was a 2022 Campeones Cup match that Alexander Callens and Maxi Moralez comfortably won for the men in blue.

But when the two clubs crossed paths again on July 23 for the Leagues Cup group stage, it was under circumstances contrary to the last.

Gone are the days of Callens and Moralez being maestros in City colors. NYCFC have only won five of their 24 matches in Major League Soccer. In a week where hopes of Valentín Castellanos returning to New York evaporated, Birk Risa and Mounsef Bakrar joined the roster, and the club lost arguably their best player in Gabriel Pereira--a win would have been ideal.

Nick Cushing attempted to soften the blow of Pereira's move, and relate to the fans. He said the following:

"I understand the fans because I am in the same place they are [in]. But I also see the other side. Gabriel was an important player for us. A guy who was really liked and I had a great relationship with. But when he comes in and says 'this is gonna change my family's life,' it's difficult [to get in his way]."

Nick Cushing

NYCFC drops points in 1-0 loss against Atlas F.C.

The game started as it did all season, a mirror of this campaign itself; a lot of promise with no results. NYCFC continues to produce anything but goals and wins. Talles Magno and Santiago Rodríguez pull moves straight out of a video game but are allergic to finding the net.

Atlas quickly showed them how when Aldo Rocha scored a volley from the right side of the goal in the seventh minute. The ball bounced off the grass into the goal past Luis Barraza.

The chippy affair that followed was as split as the Citi Field crowd, which supported both sides. NYCFC shot ten with two on target. Meanwhile, Atlas had ten shots too, five of which hit the frame. NYCFC dominated possession (66%-34%), but Atlas was defensively sound. As NYCFC fished for their moment, Atlas used aggressive composure to protect their lead.

The story of the match happened in the 88th minute when homegrown player Justin Haak scored his second goal of the season. The stadium erupted, and a penalty shootout for an extra point or two was around the corner. But the video assistant Referee thought otherwise and took his time to arrive at his verdict. After a nearly six-minute review that ate up a lot of the six-minute stoppage time, Haak's goal was disallowed in the most questionable of fashions.

Atlas breezed into the full-time whistle with the 1-0 win. On the other hand, NYCFC took their frustration home after losing to poor officiating.

Cushing was adamant that Haak's goal should have stood. He expressed this after the game.

"What do you want me to say? It's a goal. The fact that we watched it for [over five minutes] is crazy. I don't understand the rules anymore. It's really disappointing because you can see how both leagues put a lot of resources and thought into it (Leagues Cup). An excellent competition--spoiled tonight."

Nick Cushing

As for the newly-acquired players, Bakrar entered the game in the 81st minute and showed little flashes of his potential. Meanwhile, Risa is yet to tally minutes for the Pigeons since his arrival.

Despite the loss, the head coach is excited for the new players.

"We need to be patient with our expectations. He (Bakrar) got off the plane 36 hours ago and met his teammates 24 hours ago. We let him off this time. I'm excited about the additions. We got two in now. The window is open and we'll continue to improve the team."

Nick Cushing

Leagues Cup action continues for New York City FC on Wednesday as they host Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena.