NYCFC II’s debut in the MLS PRO Next league ended in a 2-2 draw with New England Revolution II, and a subsequent 4-3 penalty defeat on a blustery day at Belson Stadium in Queens. In a match that saw a total of 12 penalties – two in regulation time and another ten in the shootout – the new league’s rule that drawn games go straight to penalty shootouts was put into play right off the bat.
The NYCFC way to play
NYCFC II decisively outplayed New England II, and held the majority of possession with 58.8%. NYCFC II’s style of play resembled that of the Senior Team, and Hudson River Blue asked head coach Matt Pilkington about that continuity within the organization. “We want to have a similar identity,” Pilkington said. “It’s not a carbon copy because of the personnel. We have some players that can be played a certain way. So, we are looking to have an identity similar and try to build from the back, we look to press and be pragmatic in our press. We are trying to control the play as much as we can and play with intensity.”
But building from the back resulted in two costly errors that allowed New England to go ahead, and then even the score.
In the seventh minute, midfielder Justin Haak lost possession of the ball at the top of NYCFC’s box which led directly to Damian Rivera’s opening goal for the Revs. Within two minutes NYCFC equalized through a Senior Team-esque passing sequence that ended with a Kevin O’Toole assist and a Josh Denis finish.
A penalty saved, a penalty converted
In the 27th minute, Rivera was taken down in the box and the first penalty of the match was awarded to the Revolution. Luiz Barraza, backup goalkeeper for the Senior Team, saved Rivera’s spot kick with a trailing leg, keeping the score level at one goal apiece. Within ten minutes another penalty was awarded, this time to NYCFC. Another Senior Team player, Chris Gloster, stepped up and slotted the ball top left, giving NYCFC the lead.
NYCFC sustained the pressure and created multiple chances, but Revolution goalie Jacob Jackson, a SuperDraft selection, did exceptionally well to keep the ball out of the net. In the 70th Vuk Latinovich (who was listed under the name Bulatovic), made a costly error and gave the ball directly to the Revolution. Rivera capitalized on NYCFC’s second substantial mistake and blasted the ball past Barraza to even the score at 2-2.
First game, first penalty shootout
With the match tied 2-2 at the whistle MLS PRO Next’s splashiest new regulation came into play for the first time in league history, and the game went straight to a penalty shootout. According to the rules, both teams are awarded one point for the draw, one team get an additional point for winning the shootout.
The penalty shootout didn't go NYCFC’s way: Misses by forward O’Toole and midfielder Jack Beer resulted in a 4-3 loss for the Young Pigeons. On the bright side, Luiz Barraza denied a New England attempt from the spot, making it his second penalty save of the match—it was a standout performance for the backup keeper.
Overall, it was an impressive performance for the new squad. However, Senior Team players gave away the win when both Haak and Latinovich made costly turnovers that led directly to New England’s goals.
NYCFC II next travel to Florida to play Orlando II on Sunday, April 3, 6 pm ET.