New York City FC made history last week when they defeated the USL’s North Carolina FC 4-0 to earn their first-ever win in U.S. Open Cup play, a feat that had evaded them four times prior. The victory — done with a collection of “rotational” players — lifted supporters into a frenzy and got the entire fanbase excited for the future.
For the USOC Round of 16, NYCFC were drawn against the formidable D.C. United — anchored by emerging star Luciano Acosta and English legend Wayne Rooney — on the road at Audi Field. Though DCU had definitely seen before runs of form in the lead up to this matchup, NYCFC elected to field a squad much more reminiscent to their first team.
The Black-and-Reds were the first on the board with a Rooney goal in the 32nd minute. But a late first half flurry by City saw the visitors take a 2-1 lead, one they would hold until the end.
DCU looked the much better side out the gate. Just seconds into the game, Acosta and Rooney combined to near-flawless effect when a nifty backheel pass from the Argentine found Rooney at the top of the box. Strapped for space, the former Manchester United star fired a shot towards goal with his left foot. Though City goalkeeper Brad Stuver was unable to get a hand to it, the shot ricocheted mercifully off the post.
At the other end, Alexandru Mitrita would have a pair of promising opportunities to get on the score sheet. DCU keeper Chris Seitz stepped up big to save both attempts.
NYCFC was thought to have scored in just the 7th minute after Héber converted a corner kick. Unfortunately, the ball was ruled to have struck his left hand before trickling into goal and was ultimately waved off, keeping the game scoreless.
After some back-and-forth, the Black-and-Reds would ultimately strike first in the 32nd minute when Rooney — after a brilliant ball into space by Ulises Segura — lined one far post past defender Sebastien Ibeagha and Stuver to put SCU up 1-0.
The lead would not last long, however, as Keaton Parks would respond with his own lob into the attacking third, finding Mitrita in a 1-v-1 situation with Seitz. The Romanian effortlessly tapped the ball past the D.C. keeper to knot the game at 1-1.
Soon after, NYCFC would seize control of the game.
After making an inspired recovery run, Parks dispossessed Lucas Rodriguez. The loose ball found Ibeagha who then picked out Ismael Tajouri-Shradi running down the right wing. The Libyan patiently measured up his marker before making the most delicate of cuts onto his left foot and driving the ball towards the net. The scorcher beat Seitz at the far post, giving NYCFC a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
An exquisite finish indeed.
The second half saw NYCFC slowly ice the game for the win. Stuver was called into action early to deny Rooney of an equalizing goal and delivered. The backup keeper stepped up to make some more stops down the line, but nothing ever seemed that threatening as City methodically out-played DCU from whistle to whistle, earning the 2-1 victory and advancing to the USOC quarterfinals where they will play Orlando City on the road.
Next up: Following a lengthy break to accommodate for international competition, NYCFC return to league play on June 29 where they face the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union at home.