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Pura Vida: NYCFC score late to earn first win over Charlotte

New York City FC display resiliency in this comeback win over a team they failed to defeat in their previous five meetings.

Alonso Martínez was jumping for joy after scoring the game-winner | Photo by © Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC played host to Charlotte FC at Yankee Soccer Stadium for the first time, and they made it count. NYCFC were looking to make it three straight wins in a row for the first time since 2022 — and defeat Charlotte for the first time in history. Everything went to plan, as New York City earned a 2-1 win. 

After a poor start from the home side, Charlotte was in the driver's seat after an early goal from Kerwin Vargas. New York City began to swing the momentum of the game their way, and leveled the game at one apiece right before halftime with a headed goal from Keaton Parks.


New York City: 18 shots, 7 shots on target, 57.8% possession, 503 passes, 80.9% pass accuracy, 19 fouls, 3 saves

Charlotte: 8 shots, 4 shots on target, 42.2% possession, 376 passes, 74.2% pass accuracy, 12 fouls, 5 saves

• Charlotte, Kerwin Vargas, 3'
• New York City, Keaton Parks, 41'
• New York City, Alonso Martínez 90+3'

Attendance: 20,119

NYCFC continued their offensive push in the second half but were unable to get the go-ahead goal. Mounsef Bakrar scored an offsides goal, and hit the post on a later opportunity, but he couldn't end his scoring drought. Nick Cushing brought on Alonso Martínez in the 82nd minute, who scored the game-winning stoppage-time goal in the 93rd minute of a thrilling game.

Courtesy g+ GameFlow

Resilience after a poor start

After coming out strong and pressing Charlotte, the crowd at Yankee Soccer Stadium was silenced early. Nikola Petković whipped in a dangerous cross to Enzo Copetti, but Thiago Martins flicked the cross backward to Vargas, who blasted the open shot off the post and into the net.

New York City were in danger of folding against Charlotte once again. After all, they lost the season-opener against this same team when Charlotte scored in the 7th minute at home. But NYCFC started to get settled into the game and dominate possession, and had as much as 70% of the ball in the first half. Santiago Rodríguez and Julián Fernández tested Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, but neither were clear-cut or threatening.

The equalizing goal would come from a set piece. With Rodríguez and Fernández standing over the free kick, Fernández whipped it towards Parks, who rose high and blasted his header past flat-footed Kahlina. Heading into the locker rooms at halftime, NYCFC not only leveled the game, they regained the momentum.

The backline, consisting of Mitja Ilenič, Thiago Martins, Birk Risa, and Kevin O'Toole, was able to find its footing after conceding off a counterattack in the third minute. It was the first goal conceded in two games, but Matt Freese still made some big saves in the first half and was quick off his line to prevent chances.

Alonso Martínez leaves it late

New York City struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the second half, as Charlotte opted to play more defensively to try to get the 1-1 draw. Bakrar was able to find the back of the net in the 54th minute, but it was deemed offside after a VAR review. Bakrar had another great chance about 14 minutes later but hit the woodwork.

Head coach Nick Cushing brought on Hannes Wolf, Malachi Jones and Martínez as late subs to try to find the game-winner. In the dying seconds of stoppage time, Rodríguez whipped in a cross to an open Martínez, who impressively flicked a shot off his right foot into the bottom left corner of the net.

It was Martínez's second goal of the season, with the first one coming on the road against Inter Miami to earn a point. After the game, Cushing spoke highly of Martínez, saying that he is very clinical and that he is developing into a No 9. It is possible that Martínez could see action as a striker over Bakrar at some point this season.

Three straight wins

At the start of April, NYCFC was 13th in the Eastern Conference after the 1-1 tie with Atlanta. The season did not look promising then. The Atlanta game opened a five-game homestand that looked to be extremely important, and New York City needed wins to salvage its poor start to the season.

NYCFC have won three straight games for the first time since 2022, and are unbeaten in their last five games dating back to the road draw with Miami. These three victories in a row mark the longest winning streak since New York City won five straight games from September 17, 2022, to October 23, 2022.

Up next for NYCFC is a battle against the Colorado Rapids in Queens. Colorado are 6th in the Western Conference and has taken points from Inter Miami, Real Salt Lake and LAFC. It will be a significant test, but a win would lift New York City into the top five of the Eastern Conference.

• Charlotte, Junior Urso, yellow card, poor sportsmanship 21′
• Charlotte, Kerwin Vargas, yellow card, foul 50'
• Charlotte, Ashley Westwood, yellow card, poor sportsmanship 53'

• Referee: Ismir Pekmic
• Assistant referees: Kathryn Nesbitt, Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
• Fourth official: Elton Garcia
• VAR: Greg Dopka
• Assistant VAR: Eric Weisbrod