On the surface, there was nothing particularly special about New York City FC’s game on Saturday against FC Cincinnati leading into it. It was the second game of the season on a fair weather April afternoon in the Bronx. In a more normal universe where all the standard rules and conditions apply, there’s nothing more to it than that.
But for NYCFC, it was anything but a normal day in the office.
It was the first time in 577 days that the Boys in Blue would be playing in front of fans at Yankee Stadium. And it was also a game to send a message to the league after a disappointing and disheartening season-opening loss the weekend prior: “we are not what you think we are.” Everything was set for a magical, cathartic afternoon where the people of New York had something to cheer for again.
Did they achieve it? Yes. In spades.
In a complete performance that had everything from bangers to double saves, NYCFC thoroughly dissected Cincinnati in a 5-0 thrashing that fans will savor for a long time.
Like the previous week against D.C. United, NYCFC were hot off the blocks and started with a palpable fire and energy. And it wouldn’t take them long to get their first tally of the afternoon.
In the 6th minute, City earned a free kick on the left wing of the attacking third. Left back Gudi Thorarinsson delivered a well weighted ball into the area, which was initially deflected back. The ball fell to Andres Jasson who put an attempt on goal, which was also deflected in front of net. This time, however, Jesus Medina was lying in wait and was able to tap home an easy goal to give NYCFC an early 1-0 advantage.
Throughout the first half, City were stingy with their possession, at one point having a possession percentage of over 70%. They would occasionally be able to get some shots off, but were unable to double their lead. Cincinnati would finally get some decent chances from distance towards the end of the first half, but goalkeeper Sean Johnson would be equal to all of them.
NYCFC ultimately kept their 1-0 lead intact heading into the halftime locker room. But they weren’t satisfied with that. Nor should they have been. The plan was press relentlessly against their Midwestern opponents and put some distance in between them.
And that’s exactly what they did.
In the 53rd minute, NYCFC earned a corner. Medina took the in-swinger which was seemingly headed in by Maxime Chanot. The people in charge would eventually rule it an own goal for Nick Hagglund on Cincinnati, but Chanot’s hard work to rise above his marker and the goalkeeper should be commended.
Set pieces hitting different today pic.twitter.com/bqYXE7uKcv— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 24, 2021
Just moments later, Gudi would step up for another free kick. This time, instead of looping it into the box for a player to get onto it, he took his chances and laced a shot from distance. The ball bent beautifully before beating the Cincinnati keeper at the near post, giving NYCFC a dominating 3-0 lead.
And things just kept getting better from there. In the 67th minute, Taty Castellanos forced another Cincinnati own goal but firing either a cross or a shot into a defender and having the ball ricochet into the net, extending NYCFC’s lead to 4-0. With the win already firmly in their grasp and imminent, Medina delivered a stunner from a wide area to cap off a 5-0 thrashing in style and give himself a brace.
The potent offense wasn’t the only bright spot this game. City also delivered the goods on the defensive style of the ball. Sean Johnson was pivotal in this attempt when in the 70th minute, NYCFC’s new captain made a spectacular double save that brought the fans in attendance to their feet and ensured that Cincinnati would be kept off the scoreboard.
The captain wants his clean sheet pic.twitter.com/Cj0Np24xnA— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 24, 2021
Overall, things couldn’t have gone better for the Boys in Blue. While many will argue that Cincinnati’s reputation for being Eastern Conference cellar dwellers precedes them, few can argue with NYCFC’s work rate throughout the entire affair. Not once did City take their foot off the gas, even if they had little more to do towards the end. Everyone did their jobs, were in the right place, and played for the badge. It’s the most complete performance we’ve seen from them since Ronny Deila took over last year.
The key is to carry this momentum and confidence forward. And City will need it next weekend when they take on the highly touted Philadelphia Union on the road.