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US Open Cup Reaction: Homegrown teens pass major test

Open Cup win over Hartford Athletic was a chance for some accelerated professional development for four of New York City FC's most talented Homegrown players.

A huddle of the young II squad that pulled off the Cupset in Hartford. Photo: NYCFC II.

Drew Baiera, Jonathan Shore, Máximo Carrizo, and Christian McFarlane have each played plenty of matches with New York City FC II since signing their Homegrown contracts.

Nothing they've dealt with in MLS NEXT Pro was as high-stakes or competitively challenging as the trip to face Hartford Athletic in the Third Round of the US Open Cup.

All four Homegrown teenagers were in NYCFC II's Starting XI and all four contributed to a back-and-forth, chaotic 3-2 New York City FC II victory over their higher-division hosts.

It was a match that required extra time and a match won by a booming 109th-minute strike from 16-year-old Máximo Carrizo.

Carrizo was a standout on the night, completing 88% of his 41 attempted passes and consistently making intelligent plays in possession to help move New York City upfield and out of the dangers of the persistent Hartford press.

Carrizo scored his first professional goal for NYCFC II in its First Round Open Cup win over FC Motown, but missed the Second Round triumph over Red Bulls II—as did Shore and Baiera—while away participating in Generation adidas Cup as part of NYCFC's U17 team.

That this trio, plus McFarlane, were all back in for a first meeting with a USL Championship side speaks to the value perceived in playing this type of opponent, a team that entered its match with NYCFC II having conceded the fewest goals in the USL Championship, with three wins from four matches played.

This meant the Third Round of the Open Cup presented a chance for accelerated professional development for the four promising Homegrown players only recently out of the NYCFC Academy.

Carrizo was the only one of the four to add a goal contribution in the II's win, but Jonathan Shore wasn't far away from getting on the scoresheet himself, two shots taken in the second half, with one he definitely should have buried, a wide-open look at an empty net off a rebound that he pushed wide.

Shore has been NYCFC II's leading scorer in league play this season with three goals scored, and was an active box-to-box presence in Hartford, credited with two chances created, five successful passes into the final third, and seven touches in Hartford's penalty area.

The high press and turnover-searching approach from Hartford meant fullbacks Christian McFarlane and Drew Baiera were short on time whenever they were in possession, tough assignments against a physical, experienced Hartford side.

Neither defender made what you'd say were critical errors, instead holding strong while New York City FC II weathered the storm of a shaky first half that saw Hartford take 10 shots and have a huge possession and game-tilt advantages.

Those advantages for Hartford disappeared in the second half, in part because of the mature, resilient, steady performances of New York City's group of under-18s. The win wouldn't have been possible with huge contributions from other New York City players outside this group of four I've chosen to focus on. JJ Jimenez and Taylor Calheira were hugely influential to the win and this post isn't trying to gloss over their performances.

The focus is on the Homegrowns because followers of NYCFC have been hearing about them and their potential for numerous years now, with plenty said particularly about Carrizo and McFarlane, the two Homegrown players most hyped up by analysts and youth soccer observers.

Seeing these four Homegrowns go through this Open Cup experience and taste the glory of pulling off a bonafide Cupset on the road against a team playing in a higher league, it's hard to not dream on what could be in store when these players break through to the NYCFC senior team—that is, if they stick around long enough to break through to the NYCFC senior team before leaving for greener professional pastures.

The young NYCFC II team's Open Cup run might end in the Round of 32 if a matchup with an even tougher USL Championship team presents itself. For now, though, the club's Open Cup dream lives on and is being propelled forward by a handful of players who are still too young to vote.