New York City FC advanced to the Group of 16 of the US Open Cup through a mostly straight-forward, slightly scrappy win against MLS NEXT Pro side Rochester New York FC at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University in Queens. It wasn’t pretty, but through a moment of brilliance between Gabrial Pereira and Thiago, a goalkeeping blunder, and an authoritative header, NYCFC returned to winning ways.
NYCFC: 14 shots, 7 on goal, 65.3% possession, 569 passes, 88.4% pass accuracy
Rochester: 10 shots, 3 on goal, 34.7% possession, 290 passes, 72.1% pass accuracy
Manager Ronny Deila rotated the squad heavily, making nine changes from the draw against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. That being said, the teamsheet featured Maxi Moralez’s and Maxime Chanot’s first starts since returning from injury. Their places in the lineup are a sign that either they are no longer First Team players, or that Deila is getting them back in shape. It's most likely the latter—however, starting a 35- and 32-year-old on an artificial surface was a somewhat surprising move.
Rochester lost to NYCFC II a little over two weeks ago, but they began the game on the front foot, creating a couple of chances off the counter. It was NYCFC who struck first through an exquisite pass by Gabriel Pereira in the 23rd minute that Thiago matched in quality with a one-time volley that looped over the goalkeeper before nestling into the back of the net.
The Pigeons settled into the game after the opening goal, controlling possession and pressing Rochester effectively. That press resulted directly in a goal when Héber capitalized on a heavy touch by Rochester’s keeper and deflected a clearance right into the goal. It was good to see Héber get on the board, however his performance overall was lackluster and uninspiring. His inability to fit into the system and get remotely involved has nullified the production of the offense since he’s slotted into the Starting XI.
Moments before the half-time break, Rochester cut City’s lead in half when a lucky deflection found its way to the back post to a waiting Jesús Batiz.
That ended up being just a consolation goal: Well into second half, Chanot’s authoritative header off a Santi Rodríguez corner in the 76th minute put the pigeons up 3-1.
But what should have been an uneventful end to the contest turned scrappy in the final minutes. Andres Jasson drew a penalty in the 90th minute which triggered a comical moment for spectators inside Belson’s stadium. Chanot and Rodríguez were debating who between them would step up and take the kick. Rodríguez seemingly won that debate as Chanot handed the ball over to Santi, just for the Uruguayan to be convinced to pass the ball over to Gedion Zelalem, much to Chanot’s incredulity. All this, for Zelalem just to miss the subsequent spot-kick.
Just moments later, Pereira, who was getting involved with the Rochester players all game, kicked out at the defender after the ball went behind for a goal kick. He was assessed a yellow, his second of the match, and was tossed from the game. Rochester got their own red card when Preston Popp was called for a foul, then kicked Jasson. It was an ugly ending to a hard-fought, solid win for NYCFC.
NYCFC will next face Charlotte FC, New England Revolution, or New Jersey Red Bulls in the Round of 16. The draw that pairs teams will be held later today at 8:30pm, and the games will take place on May 24 and 25.
NYCFC, Thiago 23’
NYCFC, Héber 31’
Rochester, Jesús Batiz 45+3’
NYCFC, Maxime Chanot 76’
Referee: Ernie Constantine
Assistant Referee: Justen Lopez, Alexandru Focea
Fourth Official: Jared Simons