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Short-handed NYCFC fall to FC Cincinnati on the road

A makeshift lineup came close-ish to taking a point from the league leaders.

Hide your eyes, Julián | © Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC entered TQL Stadium for their road game against FC Cincinnati missing nine players.

Despite NYCFC coming off their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC, many fans weren't expecting much against a stronger Cincinnati side who won the Supporters Shield last season, and who are undefeated this year.

Instead, NYCFC were able to keep it scoreless until the 57th minute, when 2023 MLS MVP winner Luciano Acosta broke the deadlock with an impressive solo goal.

To make matters worse, Kevin O'Toole and Birk Risa left the game with injuries.

As a result of New York's limited squad, Malachi Jones made his MLS debut at the ripe age of 20. He was a breath of fresh air, pressing defenders and running all over the pitch, making his presence known.

But at the end of the day, NYCFC scored just three goals and tallied only three points in five games. With a tough match against Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale coming up on Saturday, it will not get any easier for New York.

GAME STATS

New York City: 8 shots, 4 shots on target, 51.8% possession, 560 passes, 82.9% pass accuracy, 5 saves, 16 fouls 

FC Cincinnati: 10 shots, 6 shots on target, 48.2% possession, 462 passes, 79.4% pass accuracy, 4 saves, 13 fouls

Goals:
• FC Cincinnati, Luciano Acosta, 57'

Attendance: 24,282

Nine players down

Heading into the game, it was well-known that NYCFC would be missing many key players. Keaton Parks was serving a suspension after being off in the last game against Toronto, and Mounsef Bakrar, Tayvon Gray, and Mitja Ilenič were on international duty. Jovan Mijatović was also away with Serbia, which meant that New York did not have a striker.

Santiago Rodríguez started up top, and forced Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano to make a great save in the 48th minute, but he ultimately, though, had a quiet game. Rodríguez had 75 touches, created only one chance, made five passes into the final third, and had two touches in the opposition's box. Of course, Rodríguez is not a natural No 9, but NYCFC needed their leading goal scorer to get involved.

The midfield of James Sands and Andrés Perea worked well, as New York was able to hunker down for more than half of the game and keep Cincinnati at bay. Sands had five interceptions, eight recoveries, and won 75 percent of his aerial duels, while Perea won all three of his tackles, had five recoveries, and won 73 percent of his ground duels.

As for the defense, Strahinja Tanasijević made his debut in a back-three. Tanasijević didn't make the strongest first impression, winning less than 30 percent of his duels, but he did make three clearances. Matt Freese had another strong game, saving Aaron Boupendza and Luca Orellano's shots in the first 15 minutes, and making a diving stop to thwart a late one-on-one. Overall, he had five saves and four recoveries.

It was clear that NYCFC was going for a draw and prioritized defense over offense. Although New York did have some scoring chances, it was the third time this season that it was held scoreless.

g+ GameFlow

More injuries pile up

With Maxi Moralez and Talles Magno currently out, the injured list grew longer after the loss to Cincinnati.

Risa came off in the 52nd minute because of a leg injury. Nick Cushing confirmed that Risa was dealing with lower leg pain heading into the game.

O'Toole, who scored the game-winning goal against Toronto last week, suffered what seems to be a concussion. Cushing later said that O'Toole just got over the concussion he had last year, which makes this a disappointing setback for the 25-year-old.

Malachi Jones impresses

Despite the disappointing result, 20-year-old attacker Malachi Jones made his long-awaited MLS debut. Jones was selected in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, which is how the club acquired Jack Harrison in 2016, Jonathan Lewis in 2017 and Luis Barraza in 2019.

Jones played 23 minutes on the left-wing and was a breath of fresh air. The stat sheet is a small sample size, as Jones had 20 touches, a 90 percent pass accuracy, one successful dribble and one pass into the final third, but Jones brought energy to the team.

Jones pressed the Cincinnati defenders and tracked back on defense. In a New York attack that has looked dead many times, Jones brought energy and an offensive spark. It is unlikely that Jones will start or see a lot of action so soon, but he has the potential to be a super sub when needed.

NYCFC will remain on the road for their game against Inter Miami next Saturday.

"I'm proud of the group today," said head coach Nick Cushing. "I can't say anything other than I'm really proud of the group because not only were we in a difficult challenge situation, we actually pushed the game right the way to the end and we're disappointed we didn't get anything. Ultimately we have to decide whether we should have got something or we could of and I think it's we should have got something because we had two or three really good looks."

Discipline
• Cincinnati, Luicano Acosta, yellow card, dissent, 20′
• New York City, Andrés Perea, yellow card, foul, 45+5'

Officials
• Referee: Rafael Bonilla
• Assistant referees: Hayden Oscanoa, Raidel Toledo
• Fourth official: Jaime Herrera
• VAR: Mark Geiger

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