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NYCFC grind out first road win of 2024 against Toronto

New York City FC scored three goals for the first time in 2024, while goalkeeper Matt Freese made a season-high nine saves.


New York City FC earned their first road win of the season in dramatic fashion on Saturday night at BMO Field with a 3-2 victory over an in-form Toronto FC. The home team dominated the early minutes of the game, but NYCFC entered halftime with the lead after Santiago Rodríguez converted a penalty and Malachi Jones scored his first goal in Major League Soccer.

Toronto pulled a goal back early in the second half thanks to Federico Bernardeschi, but an insurance goal from Andrés Perea turned out to be the game-winner for New York City. It was the first time NYCFC scored three goals all season – the last time the club equaled that mark was in the 3-0 win over Toronto on September 24, 2023 – and the club now sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points after 11 games.


New York City: 12 shots, 4 shots on target, 43.7% possession, 355 passes, 80.0% pass accuracy, 12 fouls, 9 saves

Toronto: 16 shots, 11 shots on target, 56.3% possession, 526 passes, 84.6% pass accuracy, 18 fouls, 1 save

• New York City, Santiago Rodríguez, 23' (penalty)
• New York City, Malachi Jones, 44'
• Toronto, Federico Bernardeschi, 55'
• New York City, Andrés Perea, 78'
• Toronto, Raoul Petretta, 89'

Attendance: 26,925

The match ended on an ugly note, with players and staff from both teams getting into physical altercations after the end of the game. In one clip from the Apple TV broadcast, Toronto head coach John Herdman rushes New York City head coach Nick Cushing and knocks into him. In another, Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson and New York City defender Strahinja Tanasijević confront each other, with Johnson grabbing Tanasijević and seemingly head-butting the defender.

The MLS Disciplinary Committee has yet to issue a statement on these incidents.

First-half dominance

Toronto sprinted out the gates with a high-pressing play that forced New York City's Matt Freese to make early saves. Toronto captain Jonathan Osorio nearly gave the home team in the lead in the fifth minute, but his shot rattled off the crossbar. NYCFC looked shaky and unorganized early in the first 10' of the game.

Courtesy g+ GameFlow

Once New York City settled down, they began to trouble Johnson. NYCFC were awarded their second penalty of the season after Toronto midfield Matty Longstaff blocked a cross in the box with his arm. Rodríguez stepped up to the spot and sent Johnson the wrong way, scoring his fifth goal of 2024 and giving NYCFC a 1-0 lead after 23 minutes of play.

From there, New York City pushed for the second goal. It paid off. New York City midfielder Hannes Wolf impressively dribbled through Toronto's midfield despite being pressed, weaving his way through three players and splitting another two with a pass to Jones, who crossed up Johnson with a ball that ricocheted off the far post for his first-ever MLS goal.

Jones threw up the heart-hands celebration. Not only was it his first MLS goal, it was his first MLS start, and he rewarded Cushing's decision to put him in the Starting XI.

Rotated squad pays off

With a game against the Philadelphia Union scheduled for this coming Wednesday, Cushing made some significant changes to the starting lineup that took the field against Toronto.

Striker Mounsef Bakrar didn't make the matchday roster despite starting in 10 of the team's previous 11 games. Midfielder Keaton Parks and right-back Mitja Ilenič started the night on the bench. Jones, Perea, and Alonso Martínez started instead — and two of those three players found the back of the net.

Perea's 78' goal turned out to be the game-winner. It was the midfielder's first start since the 0-1 loss to FC Cincinnati in March, and the Colombian made the most of his appearance on this night by stuffing the stat sheet. Perea completed 83% of his passes, made six recoveries, and won seven duels.

Wolf had his best performance in an NYCFC shirt as he increasingly takes on a creative role for this team. Wolf assisted both goals that came from open play. The 25-year-old created four chances, and played five passes into the final third. He now leads the team with three assists in 12 appearances.

Rodríguez not only converted his penalty, but he also put in another impressive all-around performance. He took 52 touches, was dispossessed just once, and completed 88% of his passes. He won seven duels, and was a consistent menace to the Toronto backline.

Rodríguez continues to click as New York City's No 10, and the creative partnership he's forging with Wolf is creating trouble for opposing teams.

Matt Freese masterclass

Freese had another lights-out game in goal, with a season-high nine saves. Eight of those nine saves came inside the box, and were in close-quarter situations.

The Iceman played a massive factor in the win, denying Toronto's impressive attacking lineup of Prince Osei Owusu, Bernardeschi, Longstaff, and Lorenzo Insigne. Despite allowing two Toronto goals, Freese's performance preserved the win for New York City: In the battle of present and former NYCFC goalkeepers, Freese came out on top against Johnson.

New York City now have some momentum going into Wednesday's matchup against a Philadelphia Union that are always tough to play, but that have three consecutive home losses in a row. Freese will likely need to put up another strong game, this one against his former team.

• Toronto, Federico Bernardeschi, yellow card, poor sportsmanship 22′
• NYCFC, Alonso Martínez, yellow card, foul 29'
• Toronto, Sigurd Rosted, yellow card, foul 36'
• NYCFC, Malachi Jones, yellow card, poor sportsmanship 50'
• Toronto, Kevin Long, yellow card, foul 53'
• NYCFC, Andrés Perea, yellow card, poor sportsmanship 90+9'
• Toronto, Federico Bernardeschi, second yellow card, poor sportsmanship 90+10'

• Referee: Lukasz Szpala
• Assistant referees: Chris Elliot, Tyler Wyrostek
• Fourth official: Filip Dujic
• VAR: Chris Penso
• Assistant VAR: Craig Lowry