NYCFC starts the Leagues Cup with a defeat

The Leagues Cup returned this season with a new and improved format. NYCFC had the chance to have a rematch of last season’s Campeones Cup final against Atlas FC. But things have changed since their last meeting, both teams lost key pieces in their squads and are in search of their best version.

However, the pressure was on the home side since results have been far from what many expected. The new tournament was a chance to start off fresh and aim for international competitions ahead of next season. Having that in mind surely got squads motivated, right? At least, that’s what I thought the effect was going to be.

Bittersweet night in Queens 

Losing was not an option for NYCFC if they wanted to control their destiny in the competition. Manager Nick Cushing brought out his best squad to obtain a result that helped the team set the tempo of the match.

The addition of Monsef Bakrar increased the level of expectations as well. NYCFC’s new number 9 was ready to see some minutes, but like so many times this season, things never go as planned.

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Credit: Melinda Morales | Monsef Bakrar

Atlas FC dictated the game from start to finish, looking at it now, they played really smart. They first started with a high-pressing system that pushed the team back sooner than expected.

This didn’t give the team time to properly set up on the field and caused many overlapping runs and turnovers in areas where they usually have the advantage. So much so that it took Atlas FC 7 minutes to take the lead from a set piece once again. 

The match continued with the same dynamic until the final whistle. Atlas FC managed to isolate NYCFC’s midfield to the point that no passes were elaborated properly. They either held the ball a second too long or they couldn’t find the spaces to break the opponent’s lines.

Although I have to point out the lack of urgency that the team gave off throughout the match. Losing by one goal so early in the match should be enough to give you the final push to turn things around, but nothing was clicking. At halftime, the score remained the same, but many called for Bakrar to make his appearance, the team needed the goal, so as much as it could be too early to have his first minutes. Unfortunately, the manager had a different vision and only allowed him to have 10 minutes of playing time.

Despite this, his impact was felt immediately as soon as he stepped into the pitch. The team took a second batch of fresh air and went on the attack during those final minutes. It would have been the perfect ending to a very difficult fixture. Think about it, the new striker leads the team to victory, but then again, things never go as we hope.

Justin Haak was nearly the last-minute hero for NYCFC, but after his strike was ruled offside, all hope was lost. Rumor has it that the debate continues even hours after the final whistle blew, but if you ask me, he was definitely onside. But who am I to challenge the call, right? It’s not like his goal could have changed the outcome of the result. Regardless, the team didn’t react on time, and once again they become their own worst enemy. Despite the defeat, Manager Benjamin Mora recognized how strong NYCFC is and how tricky it is to pinpoint their flaws.

The result now forces NYCFC to win against Toronto FC at all costs during the midweek game. With this in mind, is Bakrar set to start in the upcoming fixture? Or does he pick Gabe Segal? It’s a win-or-go-home for the Boys in Blue. Hopefully, Toronto doesn’t take a play from Atla’s playbook. But if that’s the case, all NYCFC need to do is get passed a familiar face within their squad.