RNY FC was always going to have a tough matchup against defending MLS Cup winners New York City FC on Wednesday night, but the MLS NEXT Pro side fought valiantly before suffering eventual elimination from the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
NYCFC used first-half goals from Thiago Andrade and Heber before an insurance goal from Maxime Chanot iced a 3-1 Round of 32 victory from Belson Stadium in Queens, New York. Rochester New York FC trimmed its two-goal deficit just before halftime, but could not beat Luis Barraza for a second time, falling short in its first-ever showdown against MLS opposition.
Bruno Baltazar’s side was dealt an early blow as midfielder Milan Vanacker was substituted off in the sixth minute due to an apparent knee injury. Vanacker has been key in MLS NEXT Pro action this season, but was stretchered off forcing an early change to the RNY FC lineup.
Andrade opened the scoring for NYCFC in the 23rd minute, looping a shot into the top-right corner. Gabriel Pereira crossed from the right wing into the box, allowing Andrade the opportunity to one-time his shot over Philip Ejimadu for a 1-0 lead.
NYCFC was gifted a second goal in the 31st minute after an error from Ejimadu. A late touch from Ejimadu after a back pass from Christian Wood was deflected into the goalkeeper’s net off of Brazilian forward Heber.
Ejimadu made a pair of key saves later in the half to keep the deficit at only two goals, first repelling Heber’s header before also denying Pereira’s dangerous cross from falling to the Brazilian’s feet.
RNY FC answered back before halftime as Jesus Betiz scored his first-career U.S. Open Cup goal. Nik Latinovich poked the ball away from Gibran Rayo on the left side of the box, but the ball rolled to Batiz who had the easiest of finishes into an empty net.
NYCFC wasted a golden opportunity to retain its two-goal advantage as Talles Magno skied his shot in the 66th minute. A great counter attack was almost capped off by Magno on a one-on-one opportunity, but Andrade’s pass across the box was tapped over the crossbar by Magno.
However, NYCFC’s continued pressure for an insurance goal paid off in the 76th minute as Maxime Chanot iced the victory. Chanot, the veteran centerback, rose highest off of a corner kick to head home past a diving Ejimadu. Ejimadu got a hand on Chanot’s effort, but was unable to keep it from finding the top-right corner.
NYCFC almost added a fourth and final goal in the 90th minute after Andres Jasson was hauled down in the box by Gustavo Rissi for a penalty. However, Ejimadu guessed right on Gedion Zelalem’s spot kick, diving to his left to deny the 25-year-old his first NYCFC goal.
Despite late pressure from RNY FC, NYCFC hung on to book its place in the Round of 16. Barraza finished with two saves for NYCFC, rarely being troubled by the young Rochester New York FC attacking front.
Both teams finished with ten men after Gabriel Pereira and Preston Popp were both sent off for red card offenses.
RNY FC has a quick turnaround, hosting Inter Miami II in MLS NEXT Pro Week 8 action on Saturday.
Milan Vanacker has been one of RNY FC’s creative options in midfield during the MLS NEXT Pro season, but his early exit definitely hurt the visitor’s chances of delivering in the final third.
The 20-year-old Belgian is one of five RNY FC players to start in all five league matches for Bruno Baltazar’s side this season, scoring one goal and registering one assist. Vanacker is also ranked in the top five for RNY FC with four key passes and leads the team in tackles (13), showing his importance on both sides of the ball.
After going down in a collision with NYCFC left back Kevin O’Toole, Vanacker was seen holding his knee and in major pain on the sidelines. He was eventually stretchered off of the field before being replaced by Paulo Soares for the remainder of the match.
Vanacker’s attacking prowess and defensive leadership was sorely missed as RNY FC eventually was stretched time and time again by NYCFC’s midfield and attackers. RNY FC was held to only 35% of the match possession, while also missing some great chances in the first-half to truly put Barraza under pressure.
Baltazar will hope that Vanacker’s injury does not keep him out of the RNY FC lineup long-term, especially with the majority of the league schedule left. RNY FC returns home for back-to-back home matches against Inter Miami II and Philadelphia Union II, a pair of teams that the Eastern Conference club will be chasing in the league standings.