NYCFC is, without a doubt, a different team when they play at home. Saturday’s game against Nashville had more than the payback atmosphere around it. The Boys in Blue were going to have their fins interaction with what will be their home in a couple of years. From media members to fans, the feeling was mutual, Queens has a different energy than Yankee Stadium. At least, that’s what I was able to notice. But I think that is something that can be discussed later during the season. In terms of the sporting aspect, the match had 3 points on the line.
The visitors won the previous match against NYCFC, so they were confident they could walk away with a victory again. But as I said before, having a home-field advantage gives NYCFC an extra push. All that was left to do was hope that some ongoing issues were fixed, but most importantly, that the team found the net to get the victory.
The midfield leads NYCFC to victory:
The first surprise of the night came in the starting lineup, midfielder Richard Ledezma made his first start with the team. The switch meant that Santiago Rodriguez stayed on the bench for the time being. At first glance, it seemed like it was a decision based on momentum. Ledezma had been playing well, so a start was well-deserved. Gabriel Pereira also returned to the starting lineup due to Pellegrini’s suspension, but aside from that, the team remained the same. If anything, all eyes were on Ledezma as soon as the game kicked off.
The team got things going fast, it only took 10 minutes for NYCFC to find the net against Nashville. Talles Magno escaped a two-man mark with a good piece of skill down the wing, setting the ball up for Ilenic. In a slow-motion moment, he placed the ball perfectly into the box for Keaton Parks to header the ball into the net. Parks scored the first goal of the match and his first goal of the season. The moment included a very special celebration for the midfielder, who is soon to be a father. “I’ve been planning it all season, I’m glad I was able to do it during a home game.”
If you ask me, it was a perfect start, scoring first always gives the team control over the match. This gave Ledezma a chance to showcase his ability, he made good runs into the spaces and showed his speed. In fact, he was able to give an assist as well. In this aspect, I highlight his ability to give crosses in set pieces (corner kicks, indirect free kicks). He knows how to place them well. He was able to find Chanot for the second goal of the match.
Nashville, however, did put up a fight throughout the game. They forced Luis Barraza to make some big saves. From a distance and up close, he responded well whenever he was needed. The goalkeeper continues to build arguments to stay the number 1 for the remainder of the season. Honestly, if it wasn’t because of Nashville’s late goal, he was on his way to recording another clean sheet and most likely a man-of-the-match performance. Not much he could do on that occasion as well, but the team managed to defend set pieces far better than in previous games. This decreased the tension in the final minutes of the match. Remember that having a two-goal lead can be a tricky scoreline to handle. But as I said, the team defended well, so the 2-1 victory was not as dramatic as we thought it was going to be.
The mission was accomplished, three points, and scoring goals are definitely positive. But this also raises questions in that midfield, who starts and who goes to the bench? Ledezma had 60 minutes of playing time where he displayed his fighting spirit, but Santiago Rodrigues kept the same energy level when he stepped into the field.
I firmly believe that unless something happens to Keaton during the season, Ledezma and Santi will be fighting for the last remaining spot in midfield. If that’s the case, hopefully, it’s a healthy competition. Both midfielders have the qualities to help the team push forward. The team will now regroup once again to prepare for a third consecutive home game. The Worlds borough demonstrated that it brings the energy that the team needs. If anything, we better get used to coming to Queens; NYCFC’s future home will be here soon.