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Cupset Redux: Baby Blues score early, hold on to win 1-0

NYCFC II advance to the Round of 16 in the 2024 US Open Cup after shutting out a dangerous Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Belson Stadium in Queens.

NYCFC II's Jonathan Jiménez individual moment of genius won the game | Courtesy

New York City FC II punched their ticket to the next round of the US Open Cup on a beautiful night in Queens after defeating Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in what turned out to be a defensive masterclass. JJ Jimenez’s early strike ended up being the winner: Not only do NYCFC II stay alive, it is only the third time in franchise history that a New York City team advance to the Round of 16.


New York City FC II: 6 shots, 2 shots on target, 48% possession, 358 passes, 74% pass accuracy, 10 fouls, 3 saves

Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 12 shots, 3 shots on target, 52% possession, 281 passes, 73% pass accuracy, 14 fouls, 1 saves

• New York City, Jonathan Jimenez, 6'

The Baby Blues were indeed young tonight, as head coach Matt Pilkington fielded players familiar from recent MLS NEXT Pro games. The only First Team inclusion was the high-profile winter signing Jovan Mijatovic.

The Colorado Springs Switchbacks, on the other hand, fielded a much older and more experienced roster. Their squad was similar to that of Hartford Athletic, the other USL Championship side NYCFC II sent packing on this cup run

A fast start

While this game ended up being significantly more tame than NYCFC II’s past cup matches, it got off to an exciting start. With only six minutes on the clock, JJ Jiménez continued his blistering cup form by carving through the Switchbacks defense before calmly slotting the ball between the keeper’s legs to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

It was the fourth goal scored by Jiménez this tournament. That places him in a three-way tie for the Golden Boot with Dembor Benson of El Farolito SC and Stefano Pinho of Birmingham Legion FC. Both El Farolito and Birmingham were eliminated after losing in earlier rounds.

The Switchbacks looked ready to strike back immediately, as a golden chance arose only five minutes after Jiménez’s opener. Colorado Springs’ Quenzi Huerman latched onto a baseline cutback and had an open shot from six yards out, but he blasted the opportunity over the bar.

Following the opening frenzy, the game settled down with the visitors controlling most of the possession, but without piecing together a coherent threat. At the half NYCFC II only held 41% of the possession and took just three shots, with two on target. The Switchbacks had five shots, two of them on target.

The second half followed the pattern of the first, with Colorado Springs getting into promising positions but finding themselves snuffed out effectively by the Baby Blues. Defenders Samuel Owusu and Alexander Hauschild were excellent, along with the two fullbacks Christian McFarlane and Drew Baiera. 

A defensive masterclass

The first real chance of the half came in the 58th minute, when NYCFC II took advantage of a cheap giveaway and sprang up the pitch. The ball was lifted to Mijatovic at the back post, and the striker looked poised to volley the ball into the net for the second goal of the night but for a last-second deflection by the Switchbacks defender. 

Mijatovic showed flashes in the game, holding up the ball well multiple times. However, the lack of chemistry between him and the other attacking players was evident. 

NYCFC II’s defensive masterclass continued into the 82nd minute, when the visitors had their best chance to equalize. In almost identical fashion to their missed chance in the first half, a cutback sat perfectly for their striker six yards out from Romero’s net. This time, instead of blasting the shot over the net, the forward whiffed completely, allowing Romero to scoop the ball up and smother Colorado Springs’s chances of advancing.

NYCFC II closed out the game effectively. It helped that they were aided by a moment of self-sabotage by Switchbacks second-half half-substitute Aidan Rocha, who talked himself into back-to-back yellow cards.

NYCFC II continue their cup run by advancing to the Round of 16, which will be played on Tuesday, May 21. The Baby Blues will host either New Mexico United of USLC or Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. (The game is underway as of the publication of this post.) Looking forward in MLSNP league play, NYCFC II will travel to Chicago to face Chicago FC United on Monday, May 13. 

UPDATE: New Mexico United defeated Real Salt Lake 4-2, and will play New York City.