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NYCFC start 2024 with familiar road loss in Charlotte

The clock turned back to 2023 with another away defeat decided by a set-piece goal and a lack of finishing.

Wolf prowling in his MLS debut | Courtesy

New York City FC kicked off the 2024 season by turning the clock back to 2023, again losing on the road in a match where they conceded off a set play and failed to find the back of the net, or to find many clear-cut scoring chances.

This new twist on a familiar defeat came at the hands of Charlotte FC at their packed out and freshly-FieldTurf’ed Bank of America American Football Stadium, a 1-0 loss that was also the fifth straight defeat NYCFC suffered on Matchday 1 of MLS seasons. 

A corner kick in the match’s eighth minute led to the night’s only goal, with Charlotte’s Adilson Malanda nodding home a rebound after Iuri Tavares’s initial header from the whipped-in corner clanged off the crossbar and onto the NYCFC goal line. 

The goal was the culmination of a rocky start from the visitors, who struggled to get into the game. In those first ten minutes, simple passes were misplaced, the defense looked tentative and unsure, and crispness was generally lacking. From the goal on, though, NYCFC maintained the better of play and had a handful of scoring chances leading into halftime. 

Those few New York City chances, though, were often met with blocked shots or vital defensive interventions from Charlotte. That would mainly continue in the second half, with NYCFC’s fortunes never improving despite the introduction of young phenom Jovan Mijatović, who made his debut in the 62nd minute and played alongside fellow striker Mounsef Bakrar.


NYCFC: 11 shots, 3 shots on target, 57.3% possession, 558 passes, 85.1% pass accuracy, 17 fouls 

Charlotte: 10 shots, 6 shot on target, 42.7% possession, 353 passes, 75.1% pass accuracy, 13 fouls 

Attacking futility abounds 

Not a great night for many of the attacking players wearing that stylish new 24/7 Kit for New York City. Julián Fernández looked rusty and out of sync on the right, Santiago Rodríguez and Bakrar were too wasteful with their efforts on goal, and neither of the young attackers subbed on—not Mijatović nor Talles Magno—were able to make a difference.

The game’s biggest, best chance for NYCFC to score came in the 76th minute, as Bakrar did well to keep the ball inbounds along Charlotte’s end line, then picked out an unmarked Rodríguez with a cross, only for Santi to sky his shot well over Kristijan Kahlina’s crossbar. 

g+ GameFlow

There were other moments of promise, like in the 12th minute when Santi played a line-splitting pass to debutant Hannes Wolf that put him through on goal, only for Charlotte defender Andrew Privett to put in a vital last-ditch tackle to keep Wolf from getting a shot off.

Bakrar, Talles Magno, even defender Kevin O’Toole had their own looks and half-chances, but it was a frustrating night of attacking soccer from Nick Cushing’s side. NYCFC out-shot Charlotte 11-10, yet New York City only put three of its shots on target, with Charlotte also credited for creating more “big chances” on the night.

Some goalkeeping heroics

It was only down to the work of Matt Freese that the deficit remained just the one goal. Kevin O’Toole was deemed to have handled the ball in the box by VAR, giving Kerwin Vargas and Charlotte a penalty kick in the 66th minute—which was saved well by Freese. 

Freese also sprang off his line in the 70th minute to cut off a shooting angle and again deny Kerwin Vargas, who had gotten in behind Birk Risa. That’s two critical saves to deny the same player on two golden scoring opportunities at a key time in the second half. 

The recently-extended goalkeeper ended his 2023 on a strong note and has looked to pick up right where he left off, at least through the one 2024 match. 

The Charlotte hex

It’s now five all-time meetings with Charlotte FC and zero wins for NYCFC, with the 2024 season-opening loss the fourth defeat New York City have suffered at the hands of the 2021 expansion club. 

Playing on the road in front of 62,291 fans in the very first game of your season is not an easy assignment, and as we have mentioned elsewhere on this site, NYCFC have been oddly consistent about losing their very first game. 

Yet this was, in theory, a weaker version of Charlotte FC than the one NYCFC faced twice last season: Karol Świderski is gone, so too is Kamil Jóźwiak, two attacking Designated Players shipped out by new manager Dean Smith, with replacements not yet signed for either.

It could have been easy to feel some NYCFC optimism heading into the opener, given the reinforcements New York City brought in during an extremely busy winter transfer window and the fragile, in-transition state of the Charlotte squad. 

Instead, history continued to repeat itself, with 2024 getting off to something of an eerily familiar start—though fret not, there are still 33 more MLS regular season matches to go, with NYCFC getting another shot at breaking the Charlotte FC curse right around the corner on Matchday 10. 


  • Charlotte, A. Malanda, 8′


  • NYCFC, Mitja Ilenič, yellow card, foul 9′
  • Charlotte, Ashley Westwood, yellow card, foul 34′
  • NYCFC, Thiago Martins, yellow card, sportsmanship, 65′
  • Charlotte, Jere Uronen, yellow card, foul, 73′


  • 62,291


  • Referee: Mario Maric
  • Assistant referees: Eric Del Rosario, Sergio Santana
  • Fourth official: Ivan Cid Cruz
  • VAR: Alan Kelly
  • Assistant VAR: n/a

Official NYCFC Match Highlights