Saturday, April 20, 2024

NYCFC Notches Second Straight Shutout, Santi Scores To Down DC United

NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese taking a free kick in the 67th minute. Photo by Jason Schott. 


New York City Football Club earned their second straight shutout, this one a 2-0 drubbing of DC United at Citi Field on Saturday night.

NYCFC has now taken points out of four straight games, and five of their last six. They have improved to 3-2-4, with 11 points, as they have moved up to ninth place, just three points out of fourth in the MLS Eastern Conference.

It didn't take long for NYCFC to get the lead in this one. In the 19th minute, NYCFC executed a brilliant counterattack, and it was Santiago Rodriguez who scored off a right-footed shot from the center of the box. Hannes Wolf earned the assist, as he slid an inch-perfect pass through the box to find Rodriguez, who had an opening. 

Santiago Rodriguez (10) waits for his teammates to celebrate his goal. Photo by Jason Schott.

It was the fourth goal of the season for Roriguez, who was making his 100th appearance with NYCFC. He is the 13th player in team history to make the century mark in games played, including the fourth of the current roster, joining Maxi Moralez, Keaton Parks, and James Sands.

That goal was nearly all NYCFC needed, as it wasn't until extra time at the end of the second half when Julian Fernandez buried a shot from the top of the box in the 91st minute to make it 2-0. 

Fernandez has now scored in two straight games, the first time he has done that in his time with NYCFC.

NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese has now earned back-to-back clean sheets, as he made nine saves on the night. 

Freese was asked afterwards if this is his best stretch with NYCFC, as he has gone over 200 minutes since allowing a goal, and he said, "No, I think defensively it was a great game today. The ten guys in front of me did unbelievably well and I don't know if it's the best 200 minutes, I don't know if it's another 200 minutes, but I'm focused on making that 290 minutes."

On what goes through his head after a big win like this, Freese said, "Yeah, I think it's just a lot of excitement. It shows that last week and the perfomances that we've had from not necessarily a points standpoint but from a performance standpoint of how well we're playing shows that we're pretty much into results now and that's very important. And again, the important thing is going on to the next one."

COACH'S COMMENTS: NYCFC Head Coach Nick Cushing spoke to the media after the win, and here's what he had to say:

On keeping the momentum going: "I think it's game dependent. I think we're trying to support the guys. We're trying to highlight the real positives. We're trying to really highlight quickly the areas that we need to be better at, those threats. But based on the way the game goes, sometimes I'm nice, sometimes I'm not, sometimes I'm fast and sometimes that slow. Today, I was pretty hard in the sense of, I thought from 35 to 45, we dropped our intensity and we dropped our standards a little bit. We started to allow them to throw the ball in the box. We started to allow them too much possession. We weren't really pressing the passed, which were not only denying them goal chances, but we were creating moments. We were regaining and creating moments from them. The goal is from this moment, but when you don't do it, you give teams a chance to get back in the game and build confidence and build momentum. With a guy like Christian Benteke, balls in the box are incredibly dangerous. So, I thought the most positive part of our performance tonight was how we gained control and we become assertive and we were dominant in the second half."

On James Sands and Santiago Rodriguez after each surpassed playing 100 games for NYCFC: "Yeah, we gave James a [100th appearance celebration] shirt midweek. He got his 100 shirt, because in our training facility, we have a board outside that is the 100 club. James was added to it this week. It was a momentous moment for him because he's homegrown, because he's an academy guy, because he is somebody that's gone through the ranks as a young player. He's wore the captain's armband. He's now a mainstay in the team. I'm proud of James. He is also playing the best football for a long time. So, it means a lot to him and his family means a lot to me to be a part of that. And he has to continue to play well so that as he ratchets up these hundreds, he can look at it and think, how many games has he played at the best of his ability?

'Santi' - I thought we saw a master class tonight from Santi Rodriguez. I think when he played like that, our team shines because he is our guy. And to have him 100 games is an incredible achievement for a guy like Santi Rodriguez, who, you know, has a ring from 2021, that was a really important guy in 2022 an last year, during the 2023 season, and this year. If he continues to play like he did tonight, I'd love him to play another 100."

On Julian Fernandez's performances and how hard it is to leave him out of the starting 11: "Impossible. Overdoing it, right? No, I spoke with Julian this week. He was super close this week and the nature of D.C. and their style and the type of game that D.C. wants to play, I really thought suit Hannes Wolf, the transitional nature, the aggressiveness. I don't think it was for a wide winger, a dribbling winger, a real creative, talented winger like Julian. But I did say that he would come in and be the difference. And I am not a genius. I just know that once the game is free flowing, Julian is going to be at his best. So, he's pushing really hard. His work rate is really improving. His ability with the ball to be just in buildup and just be involved in the game is really improving. One thing he brings is that individual moment. He had the goal chance and he put it in. So, we're just going to continue to push him and continue to demand high standards and improve performanes form a young player that is really, really hungry."

NEXT UP FOR NYCFC: This was the third of a five-game homestand for NYCFC, who will be back at Yankee Stadium next Saturday night, April 27, when they host Charlotte at 7:30 p.m.

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