New York City Football Club claimed a first win of the 2023 season with a 1-0 triumph over Inter Miami CF.
Christopher McVey’s first-half own-goal separated the sides at Yankee Stadium, as the Boys in Blue stepped out on home turf for the first time since October.
Here are Five Points from Saturday night’s success against the Herons…
City are off and running!
It may not have been comfortable, it may not have been pretty, but the Boys in Blue have our first three points on the board.
From two tough road trips in Nashville SC and Chicago Fire, Nick Cushing had lamented a slow start and finish from our opening encounters, and had called for an improved performance over the full 90 minutes to reignite the new campaign, eager to celebrate our Home Opener on a winning note in front of the City faithful.
The City Boys really had to grind out this victory, and though the decisive goal arrived courtesy of a stroke of good fortune, the squad will not have minded in the slightest! After all, it doesn't matter how it goes in... The main thing was that it did, and that the squad gave their all to defend the lead.
Though Cushing prides himself on dominant performances, sometimes you have to dig deep and fight, and the home side produced a valiant display, battling for every ball and rallying in the second half to limit the number of opportunities Miami – and the dangerous Josef Martínez especially – had to level.
In truth, the win should perhaps have been more comfortable with some of the chances the home side crafted, but the hosts found Miami 'keeper Drake Callender in inspired form.
Plus, a little rust is to be expected so early in the season... and ultimately, a win is a win!
Back In The BX
Oh, it was good to be back...
Saturday's clash saw City grace home turf for the first time in almost five months, having last stepped out on New York soil in last season's playoffs - coincidentally, against Miami.
Though much had changed in the off-season, one key component remained: the unwavering support and unquestionable impact of the City fans.
Just as they did in October's Round One clash, the home faithful spurred their side on to victory, greeting the Boys in Blue with a hero's welcome on another special night in the Bronx, and providing crucial encouragement in a tense finale.
The post-match celebrations said it all: the players were delighted to be back in front of their own fans, especially having clinched the win, and after so long, and the supporters showed their equal appreciation for a job well done on the field.
Cushing was full of praise for a real 'team' effort as everyone connected to the Club came together to inspire that victory, and going forward, making our home a 'fortress' as the Head Coach stated, will be key in the quest for silverware.
What better way to celebrate your 23rd birthday?
With a win on his first start at Yankee Stadium, and a Star of the Match performance, Matías Pellegrini couldn't have asked for much more to mark his special day... Well, maybe a goal - and only the offside flag denied him that feat in what had been a superb finish on the volley!
A fine individual performance on his natural left flank earned deserved acclaim from his Head Coach, as Cushing hailed 'an excellent performance', noting the Argentine's tireless workrate as a key trait to his success.
As sweet as any birthday cake is the fact Pellegrini's fine display arrived against his former Club, with the winger having featured for Miami between 2019 and 2022.
Enjoying more regular gametime this year, Pellegrini is savoring the chance to show what he can do, and if these early glimpses are anything to go by, he could play an important role this season.
Another pleasing aspect of the triumph saw City also register a first clean sheet of the season.
The Boys in Blue had shipped goals in our openers against Nashville and Chicago, and had been keen to tighten things up at the back sooner rather than later, especially on the set-piece front.
New York had never conceded a home goal against Miami, but coming up against a team two-for-two in 2023, and with a lethal striker in Martínez chasing his 100th MLS goal, it was going to be a big ask to preserve a shutout.
Much of the prematch talk had focused on Callender's impressive start to the campaign - and the Miami shot-stopper showed exactly why that was the case at Yankee Stadium with another stellar performance - while City's goalkeeping situation has also been a key topic of discussion over the past weeks.
Though Barraza has started all three fixtures so far, Cushing has reiterated the number one spot is up for grabs between the 26-year-old and new recruit Matt Freese.
Across those three games however, Barraza has impressed - with little he could have done about the goals conceded - and a clean sheet in the Bronx will have done wonders for his confidence, as well as that of the City backline. An encouraging step forward.
SR10 back in the XI!
The clash also marked a first start of the season for Santiago Rodriguez, with the midfielder having made a welcome return to the Club earlier this month, signing a new contract as a Designated Player.
Though the Uruguayan is playing catch-up having missed the Club's preseason, his contribution against Miami was influential, especially as an attacking threat from set-pieces - the decisive goal arrived courtesy of a Rodríguez delivery, forcing McVey to slice into his own net, while Keaton Parks also had a few looks crafted by our new #10.
A sharper Santi would have likely put the game to bed with better finishing, though as mentioned Callender was on top form. Cushing admitted the 23-year-old is yet to find his 'rhythm' having only recently joined up with the squad, but highlighted the importance the midfielder will have on City's chances of silverware.
"You can see the quality theguy has. For us, it's really simple: we need him to be the guy that really pushes us this year," the Head Coach stated. "He was that last year, and he has a huge hunger to do that.
"If we can get guys - not just Santi; Talles [Magno], Gabriel [Pereira], Matías Pellegrini, Thiago Andrade, Andres Jasson, these real offensive guys... If we can get them high up in the numbers, like we've seen with the [Sebastian] Driussis, the [Hany] Mukhtars, the [Daniel] Gazdags - those real offensive guys - our team will be up there in those positions.
"That's the way our league works, and it's my job to push them hard and to have expectation high."
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