Saturday, June 15, 2024

NYCFC Crushed By Columbus For Rare Defeat


The scene at 6:40 at Yankee Stadium, as the tarp protected the baseball infield. Photo by Jason Schott.

Two hours later, the game was on. Photo by Jason Schott.

New York City Football Club suffered through a one-hour thunder delay before playing their game with the Columbus Crew on Friday night at Yankee Stadium, and then they succumbed to a 3-2 defeat.

This was just their second loss in their last ten games, a span of 76 calendar days, and their first defeat since they were shutout at home by the Colorado Rapids, 2-0, at Citi Field, another game with a wet pitch.

NYCFC is now 9-2-6, with 29 points, in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference, just behind Cincinnati (10-3-3, 33 points) and Lionel Messi's Inter Miami, who is 10-5-3, with 35 points. Columbus is now 7-6-2, with 27 points, and in fifth place.

The game was highly competitive from the jump, but still scoreless in the 39th minute when NYCFC defender Mitja Ilenic was handed a red card for denying a goal-scoring attempt. 

However, just five minutes after that, NYCFC got on the board first when Agustin Ojeda buried one from the center of the box. Alonso Martinez and Santiago Rodriguez each notched assists on the play. This was Ojeda's second goal in MLS play, and they have come in their last three games, as the other one was on May 25 at New England.

When the second half commenced, Columbus took full advantage of their one-man advantage, as Christian Ramirez buried a shot from the center of the box to tie it in the 47th minute. Then, just six minutes later, Mohamed Farsi gave them the lead, and in the 65th minute, Cucho Hernandez buried one from the penalty spot to make it 3-1 Columbus.

NYCFC did get one back in the 86th minute when Santiago Rodriguez, on a feed from Maxi Moralez, buried one from the center of the box. It was Rogriguez's seventh goal of the season, and he also notched his sixth assist of the season on Ojeda's goal. For Moralez, it was his second assist in back-to-back games, also the second in a row he has contributed off the bench. 

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

On the team's performance prior to the red card: "We were trying to adjust the press [and] how we wanted to press them. They caused [us] a little problem, but Columbus is a top team. I've said before, [they are] one of the best teams in the league in buildup. If you don't get that moment right, they're going to cause you problems. We were just trying to tweak it, to try and get another body in the midfield, and what we did in the second half with ten [players], then you can get pressure on. That happens in the game [when] you're playing top teams, they come with solutions because we're a good team as well. 

"What you saw tonight was probably two of the best teams in MLS going at each other [and it was a] top level game. If we are going to be the best league in the world, that was top level. [It] reminded me of two real heavyweights going at each other. We were trying to tweak it and get the fix and then the red card moment is one of those moments that just flip the game on its head."

On Christian McFarlane's MLS debut and performance: "Christian, you can see the potential he has, right? He's really physical, really quick, got a really nice left foot. We knew Christian was going to get introduced into a game soon. Kevin O'Toole was really playing well. He's really competing. He's really showing his quality. But Kevin wasn't ready for the game. So we went with Tayvon [Gray] and Mitja [Ilenic] and we knew there would be an opportunity to maybe get Christian into the game today. I think he really showed his quality. So would have been a fairy tale at the end if [he scored], he didn't just get in front of the ball. Christian's got a big future and one that I'm proud to play a part in it at the moment by giving him his debut. It's about continuing to work now. Now he's got to aim to start a game."

On how to implement Maxi Moralez back into the lineup: "I believe in the future, yes [he can be a starter]. However, for now, we must be patient with Maxi. We can see Maxi's quality; we can see his level of impact. We can see his experience; we can see his influence on the team. But let's not rush it because putting Maxi into the game at the right time and being patient with this period post-injury is the most important part. Obviously, when he goes into a game, like I said, it's high level. The game there is high level, it's one I really love watching; even when my team is on the rack. I love to see teams being brave and teams wanting to create chances to entertain. These are two teams, two heavyweights slugging each other to see who knocks you out first. Players like Maxi Moralez thrive in that environment."

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