New York City FC fought off a challenge from Rochester New York FC in Round 4 of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, emerging as 3-1 victors in front of 1,513 Wednesday night at Belson Stadium on the St. John’s University campus.
At times, Rochester — a tournament entrant from MLS Next Pro, the third-tier league in American professional soccer — looked more dangerous than the reigning MLS Cup champions, threatening with dynamic runs down the flanks and quick counters.
But after successfully absorbing stretches of Rochester pressure, NYCFC opened the scoring in the 23rd minute.
The decisive play started on the right flank with Gabriel Pereira, who cut to his left foot and floated a beckoning cross toward the top of the penalty area for an oncoming Thiago Andrade. Free of a marker by several feet, Thiago struck the feed with a one-time lob and sent the ball looping past goalkeeper Phillip Ejimadu and into the back of the net.
It was Thiago’s fifth goal this year across all competitions.
Eight minutes later, a goalkeeping howler doubled NYCFC’s advantage. Ejimadu lingered on a back pass just long enough for Heber to create calamity; the goalkeeper’s botched clearance never left the box, instead caroming off Heber’s thigh and bouncing into the net for the 2-0 lead.
On a different day, and with slightly more precision, Rochester may have produced a historic USOC upset. The visitor’s matched NYCFC’s physicality throughout the night and started with a higher tempo, producing the game’s first two scoring chances.
Raymond Drai rolled an effort just wide of the far post after finding space on the right side of the box inside the first 38 seconds, and Gibran Rayo narrowly missed an open net off Christian Wood’s 17th minute feed.
Jesus Batiz scored what would become a consolation goal for Rochester in the third minute of first-half stoppage time, poking a loose ball past NYCFC goalkeeper Luis Barraza.
“I think we felt a little bit under it in the first 15 minutes…backs were against the wall a bit,” said NYCFC defender Kevin O’Toole, who made his first team appearance of the year. “Thiago’s finish was amazing, and that really gave us a lift. I think we felt more comfortable after that, we were able to possess it through the midfield, we got our outside backs high, and that sort of took the pressure off a little bit.
“Then we were able to get the second with Heber pressing really hard on the goalkeeper. It was a good way to get into halftime with those two goals.”
NYCFC limited Rochester throughout the second half, their third goal arriving in the 76th minute as Maxime Chanot headed in Santiago Rodriguez’s corner.
Ejimadu partially redeemed himself for his error on NYCFC’s second goal by saving Gedion Zelalem’s penalty after referee Ernie Constantine awarded a spot kick for a late foul on Andres Jasson.
More late-game drama ensued, as both teams had players sent off. For NYCFC it was Pereira — who received his second yellow in a fracas inside the penalty area following the penalty save — and Rochester’s Preston Popp in added time for a late hit near the benches.
NYCFC, which extended its unbeaten run across all competitions to six with the win, advances to the Round of 16 for the second time in club history.
“These games are always hard,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said. “Rochester was physical, they were organized and they gave everything. It was a tough game, but I think the boys did the job. They were fighting, we got three goals, and we win in the end.”
While NYCFC has never advanced past the quarterfinals, clubs representing the state of New York have had an impressive record: Since the tournament’s inception in 1913, 26 New York-based teams have won the trophy – the most of any state – with the most recent being the Rochester Raging Rhinos (ceased operations in 2017 as the precursor to Rochester New York FC) in 1999. The other 25 teams were based in New York City, but the Big Apple has not had a team lift the trophy since the Brooklyn Italians in 1991.