Sunday, April 14, 2024

NYCFC Finds Comforts Of Home With New One On Horizon


Action late in the match. Photo by Jason Schott.

Two days after New York City Football Club’s vision of new stadium became as real as ever, they found there was still some magic in their longtime home, as they shutout the New England Revolution, 2-0, on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

This is the third straight game that NYCFC has taken points, as they earned draws in their prior two matches, 1-1 at Inter Miami on March 30, and another 1-1 final against Atlanta United FC on April 6 at Citi Field.

NYCFC is now 2-2-4 on the young season, with both of their victories coming at Yankee Stadium. They are in 12th place in the MLS' Eastern Conference, but they are just four points out of fourth place, which is Philadelphia (3-3-0).

There was a big move heading into this match by NYCFC Head Coach Nick Cushing that paid off in a big way.

Agustin Ojeda, a 19-year-old Argentinian winger, was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time. After a scoreless first half, NYCFC was knocking on the door in the early stages of the second stanza when, in the 57th minute Ojeda buried a shot from the top of the box, off a feed, from Hannes Wolf to put them up 1-0.

This was Ojeda's first-ever goal for NYCFC, and he is the youngest player to have scored this season. He becomes the fifth-youngest player to score his first goal for NYCFC in their ten-year history, and is the sixth player to score before his 20th birthday.

The celebration was on for Agustin Ojeda's goal. Photo by Jason Schott.

"During the week, we were talking about how we had to win this match to be there fighting to stay in playoff contention and personally, I felt very good and I looking forward to keep contributing," Ojeda said afterwards. 

That goal held up, and Julian Fernandez provided the dagger in the 93rd minute, when he took control of a loose ball in New England zone, raced down the middle of the field and shot it from just outside the box, past a lunging Revolution goalkeeper Henrich Ravas, into the left side of the net.

NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese earned his first shutout of the 2024 MLS Regular Season. He made five saves on the night, which marks the most he has had in a game with a clean sheet in his career. This is also the fifth time Freese has had five saves in a match.

This is a three-picture sequence of Freese making a save on a corner kick that was taken by Carles Gil, which led to a shot from Tomas Chancalay from the left side of the box:

Photos by Jason Schott.

COACH'S COMMENTS: NYCFC Head Coach Nick Cushing addressed the media after the game, and spoke on these topics:

On the team's need for a proof-of-concept win: "I've said before, you know, I have many opinions on that in the sense of this is the time to take the shots at us. I understand that, in this moment you can take a free hit at us because we're drawing a lot of games and we're missing some chances and we lost some games, and we have to accept that. We have to accept that. But I know this is the time to take the shot at us because I know what's coming, and I know that progress is up and down, and I know that progress is difficult at times. You know, it's disheartening and it can be demotivating at times because you get a game like Atlanta (1-1 on April 6), where you have 2.4 expected goals and chances, and you draw the game from a goalkeeper's punt. You lose the game against Portland (2-1 on March 9) when the first half was excellent. But I see the progress every day and what I do is, I listen to a group of staff that are excellent, that are working incredibly hard, that are incredibly dedicated to analyzing, to reflecting and reviewing performances, to working with players individually. The work that goes on at the facility from my staff is top, top level, and that's why the performances have improved. And that's why the opportunity to win football games, we don't always win, but the opportunity to win is there."

On Agustin Ojeda's first MLS start and goal, and how he is progressing with the team: "Yeah, I think as Head Coach, you have you ways, right? And you have your beliefs, and you have your man management and managing the locker room and working with people, I think is a huge part of the job. I don't say I'm excellent at it, but I have some things that I really believe in. And [Agustin] Ojeda went straight in against St. Louis (on March 2) in his first game. Those that followed the team and analyzed me, I did the same with Julian Fernandez in Cincinnati last year when I put him in. I think you got to give somebody something to see and if you come in. Agustin [Ojeda] didn't play football for four, five weeks before he came here because of his visa process, because of the signing, and he wasn't physically ready. He hadn't been involved in our team, but when you give a guy a taste, it gives him something to work for, and he went in and did okay in the St. Louis game. 

It's a difficult place, but he's part of our team and I want them to know that, you know what, you're an important guy for us, but then you have to work at all of the things that will get you a start in the team and that will give you the opportunity to be on the team sheet. You look at a guy like Julian Sands, right? I can if he plays the way he plays now. I just fill in the team sheets every week until the end of the season with his name on the list because he's so good for us, he's so important for us. I've been working really hard, really hard with the coaches of trying to learn the role of what we want from the winger defensively, trying to build the physical capability of being able to counter press and press, but also being able to block and making sure that when we're under pressure, he plays a part in it. That's a team game, right? You have to have six or seven, maybe eight. It depends how solid you want to be. I would work hard. Winning in the U.S. Open Cup game was really good and I felt he was ready tonight. And we're missing goal chances, right? We're not creating. We want to be better at it. So sometimes you just got to get the pack of cards, throw it up in the air and see if you can cast the ace of spades, right? And it's down to you guys to write the headlines, right? But he got the goal."

THE HOMESTAND CONTINUES Next Saturday night, April 20, NYCFC will look to make it two in a row at Citi Field when they take on D.C. United at 7:30 p.m.

NYCFC Stadium Takes Massive Step To Becoming Reality: To read our coverage from Friday, please click here.

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