NYCFC II dominated New England Revolution II in their opening game of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season, with the away side commanding the run of play at Gillette Stadium for most of the first 80 minutes of the match. But the Young Pigeons lost 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion when Revolution II’s Esmir Bajraktarevic scored in the 89th minute. In a repeat fixture of 2022’s inaugural match, NYCFC II controlled possession, created the better chances, struck the woodwork twice, and looked like the better team, but failed to capitalize on their superiority.
NYCFC II set the pace from the opening minutes, getting in behind the defense twice, but were stopped by Revs II keeper Nico Campuzano. New England’s opening goal arrived in the 24th minute off a counterattack following an NYCFC corner. Revolution II winger Marcos Dias got in behind the New York City defense and crossed the ball to Jordan Adebayo-Smith for an open tap-in to put the Revs up 1-0.
Minutes before the halftime whistle, John Denis, NYCFC II’s leading scorer last year, opened his account with a beautiful free kick that slotted cleanly into the top right corner to even the game at one goal apiece.
Denis came close to doubling his tally in the 69th minute. He skillfully navigated around Revolution II’s center-back and struck the ball in the same place on the same post that Maxi Moralez’s header struck in the Eastern Conference Semifinal in 2021.
Three minutes later, NYCFC II center-back Samuel Owusu played a beauty of a ball into the path of Jonathan Jimenez who drove into the box and fired a point-blank shot off the crossbar. Jimenez was NYCFC II’s second-highest scorer last season, contributing 10 goals and two assists in 2022, but failed to score in this season’s opener.
NYCFC II dominated the majority of the second half and looked to be the likelier team to take home three points, however in the last 10 minutes, Revs 2 began asserting control and in the 88th minute of second-half substitute Esmir Bajraktarevic punched in the winner, securing all three points for the home team.
NYCFC II head coach Matt Pilkington reflected on the game saying, “I thought the offensive output was quite promising for us. We created a good amount of chances. We were a bit more established in the attacking half and created a lot more good chances—obviously, we hit the woodwork twice—and had more opportunities.” He finished with, “I thought we had a lot of the ball, and we really controlled most parts of the game. We created a lot of chances, so that was very positive.”
New York City ran into similar problems the First Team encountered in Foxborough on Saturday night when NYCFC drew a game they could have won. Both teams struggled to capitalize on the majority of possession and strong attacking moves with a lack of finishing up top. For their part, NYCFC II held 59.1% possession, outshooting the Revolution 19 to 9, with 6 of those on target.
A total of five starters – Denis, Jimenez, Nico Benalcazar, Owusu, and Jack Beer – were in the Starting XI for the 2022 season opener. Three of the starters last year – Luis Barraza, Justin Haak, and Kevin O’Toole – now regularly play with the First Team.
NYCFC II next plays Atlanta United 2 at Belson Stadium on Sunday, April 9, at 7pm ET.
A little disappointing. Hopefully things go better for the first team.