New York City Football Club returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Nashville SC.
First-half goals from Keaton Parks and Maxime Chanot earned the triumph for Nick Cushing’s side, with Hany Mukhtar reducing the deficit with a goal late on for the visitors.
Here are Five Points from the clash in Queens…
Back in the World’s Borough…
The Boys in Blue stepped out at Citi Field for the first time this season, and the first time since October’s superb Round One playoff win over Inter Miami CF.
With a fine recent record on our own patch, Cushing and co. had spoken of the ‘feeling of home’ wherever they play in front of the City fans, and once again the New York family came together to savor another special night in Queens.
With three victories and a draw in 2023, the City Boys have not tasted defeat on New York turf since March last season, and are gaining confidence with each game on home soil.
Opponents will be noting too that emerging victorious from NYCFC territory is becoming increasingly difficult, which can serve to hand the hosts a psychological advantage before kick-off.
Start on the front foot, and set the tempo.
Having been left chasing the game in previous fixtures, the squad had highlighted the need to impose themselves from the off – and the Boys in Blue did just that, reaping the rewards with a dream opening.
Lining up against the best defense in MLS, City knew chances may prove to be few and far between, but showed no fear, and opened the scoring with just 11 minutes on the clock, courtesy of Parks’ bullet header.
Doubling the lead before the half-hour through Chanot’s sweetly-struck volley, the hosts ensured they were in complete control. With a lead to protect, it was a case of remaining solid at the back, with the pressure instead on Nashville to force a route back into the contest.
Though The Music were able to find the net late on, the Boys in Blue battled hard to preserve the advantage, and hung on for a memorable win.
A glorious goalkeeping display.
While much of the pre-match talk had focused on Nashville’s impressive defensive stats – with The NSC having tallied five clean sheets, and goalkeeper Joe Willis recording a league-best save percentage – it was his NYCFC counterpart who earned the acclaim.
Luis Barraza produced an excellent performance to help the City Boys to victory, denying the visitors with a string of notable saves, and at key moments in the contest.
The shot-stopper thwarted six attempts on goal in total – the most he had faced this season. Equal to five of them, he tallied his highest number of saves in a game in 2023, and with the quality of 2022 MVP and Golden Boot winner Mukhtar’s late strike, there was nothing he could have done to prevent the visitors from netting a consolation.
Barraza was unfortunate not to have added another clean sheet to his name, but that fact does not take away from his crucial contribution to the triumph.
A Star of the Match performance on his first MLS start… What a way to introduce yourself.
Richy Ledezma marked his first starting berth with his first assist, teeing up Chanot to double the lead with a pinpoint corner delivery.
The midfielder had shown glimpses of his attacking quality from the bench, since joining the Club on loan in March, and seized his chance to shine with an influential performance at Citi Field.
With an hour’s gametime in the tank, as the 22-year-old continues to bed into life at NYCFC, it was a splendid display, and an promising sign of things to come.
Meanwhile, Mitja Ilenič also receives a notable mention with two assists in his last two games, showcasing his valuable offensive threat from the backline. Keep them coming!
Kings Of Queens
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Cushing was full of praise for his side’s battling efforts to fight for the win, and acknowledged the impact of having multiple leaders across the squad.
The captain’s armband has been shared throughout the season, with all members of the roster encouraged to demonstrate role model actions and behaviors, giving their all and motivating each other to push through together, especially in difficult moments.
Regardless of whether they don the armband, and start the game on the field or on the bench, Cushing says every player has the responsibility to support the team, however they can, with the shared goal of bringing their best for the benefit of the collective.
He said: “The team know we have a group of leaders that lead this team within the dressing room: Thiago Martins, Maxime Chanot, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Alfredo Morales – the longest serving player, the senior leaders, the Homegrown guy…
“There are many stories within that which give a real strength to the group. Guys rely on their experience and opinions, and their feel of the group, but also I put huge responsibly on those guys to lead the team on and off the field, making sure we’re building a cohesive group to manage problems.
“If we have guys that want to wear the captain’s armband for a status piece, or an aesthetic reason, we’re not building a real cohesive leadership group. There’s a responsibility in that moment to wear the armband – James Sands wears it – but I still see the same level of leadership and expectation from Maxime Chanot. That’s a real benefit of his character.
“Thiago Martins was excellent, Alfredo Morales knows he’s going into the game be a real leader in the game to help us. For me, it’s about that group of guys that are the real heartbeat of our group.”
NYCFC are back on home soil next weekend for the last match of our three-game home stand.
The Boys in Blue welcome FC Dallas to Citi Field on Saturday, April 22 in a 7:30pm ET kick-off.
Tickets for the game are now available. Don't miss your chance to cheer on the City Boys!
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