I’m not gonna lie, I was feeling pretty skeptical about this game. Some of the guys are out on international duty, others are injured, only 14 players in total were available... This game had all the makings of being a fifth-straight U.S. Open Cup disappointment for New York City FC.
But silly me for doubting them. Because not only did this rotational squad deliver, they did so in spades.
NYCFC took the field at Belson Stadium at St. John’s University in Queens to face the USL’s North Carolina FC. And despite only having 14 outfield players at their disposal and a heavy rotational squad, the Boys in Blue wreaked havoc upon Carolina’s defense and pulled out a dominant 4-0 win.
As stated, the lineup featured an influx of players both making their debut and/or their first-ever starts for the club or playing out of position.
GK: Brad Stuver
DEF: Juan Pablo Torres, Sebastien Ibeagha, Anton Tinnerholm, Tony Rocha
MID: Justin Haak, Danny Bedoya, Keaton Parks
FWD: Taty Castellanos, Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina
From the onset, NYCFC controlled the game and possession. Though Stuver was forced into action here and there due to a slapped-together backline, City never let their foot off the gas.
The Blues would finally get their opening tally in 25th minute.
Maxi Moralez lofted the ball over to Taty Castellanos, who then held it up just long enough for Tony Rocha to make the overlap down the left side. The often maligned makeshift left back was able to play a dangerous ball into the middle. Despite it not reaching either Maxi or Keaton Parks, the ball took a deflection off of NCFC defender Aaron Guillén and trickled into the net, giving NYCFC the 1-0 lead.
City’s next significant chance came in the 32nd minute when Castellanos had a golden opportunity, which was unfortunately denied by Alex Tambakis.
But NYCFC would not be denied of their insurance. At the death of first half stoppage time, Rocha came up big again as he curled a beautiful ball around North Carolina’s defense all the way to Jesus Medina at the far post. After a delicate gather touch, the young Paraguayan tapped it home with his left foot giving NYCFC a 2-0 lead going into the half and receiving a warm embrace from supporters for his hard work.
If the first half was the redemption of Tony Rocha, the second was the breakout performance for Keaton Parks.
Seven minutes into the second half, NYCFC sprung a counter-attack. City initially met some resistance in the attacking third, but some calm and collected passing found JP Torres alone at the right wing. From there, he would loft a cross far post which found the towering Parks who only had to nod it in to give the club a 3-0 advantage.
Later on, in the 76th minute, Parks would grab his brace. After a brilliant one-touch pass from Maxi, Keaton was given a 1-v-1 opportunity against the NCFC goalkeeper which the loan from Benfica was able to lace into the netting, capping off a triumphant 4-0 NYCFC win.
Brad Stuver ensured the clean sheet in stoppage time with a nice double save.