What you need to know

Inter Miami defender Freire suffers ACL injury

Inter Miami CF center back Nicolás Freire Freire got hurt Saturday in the second half of Inter Miami's 1-0 win over D.C. United. The veteran Argentine defender joined Inter Miami in January on a season-long loan from Liga MX side Pumas UNAM, ultimately playing in 10 matches (nine starts).

US Open Cup continues tonight

The Round of 16 kicks off tonight with four MLS teams in action. Two more play on Wednesday. See the full schedule here.

USA roster for Copa América prep matches vs. Brazil, Colombia released

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New York City FC are turning this around

On March 23, New York City FC lost 1-0 to FC Cincinnati. They had four points and three goals through five games. The next week, they traveled to Inter Miami and pulled out a 1-1 draw and gained a little momentum heading into a five-game homestand. Since that draw with Miami, the Pigeons have earned 18 points over eight games and jumped to third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

It almost feels odd to be celebrating it. NYCFC have been one of the league’s most consistently successful teams for as long as they’ve been around. Since they joined the league in 2015, only one team - New York’s red half - has earned more points. But they took a step back last season. After their MLS Cup-winning 2021 campaign with a 55-point performance in 2022, NYCFC earned just 41 points and missed the playoffs last season. Only one Eastern Conference team, Wooden Spoon-winning Toronto FC, scored fewer goals.

Understandably, the concern coming into this year centered around whether or not they’d be able to solve things in attack. Their offseason had a double-edged sword quality to it as they brought in new pieces to try and sort this out. New pieces always bring optimism, but they also mean a lack of continuity.

That’s especially true when dealing with younger players. You don’t have as much clarity as to what you’re going to get. This offseason, they brought in 25-year-old Hannes Wolf, 19-year-old Agustín Ojeda and 18-year-old Jovan Mijatović to fix an already young attack. It won’t surprise you then to learn NYCFC have had the youngest average lineup in MLS this season. It might surprise you to learn over their last nine games, they’ve generated the third-highest xG in MLS.

They’ve put it together in attack and they’ve done it quickly. Yeah, there are still issues with finishing the chances they’re creating, but last year they weren’t even finding consistent opportunities. This year winger Santiago Rodríguez is leading the way with five goals on 4.6 xG and Wolf has generated four primary assists on 4.8 expected assists. You even have Mounsef Bakrar finding consistent chances even if his finishing has been… we’ll call it ‘lacking.’ Hey, look, he got the winner this weekend, he still might come good yet.

The bottom line is they’re starting to generate all the chances they didn’t last year, most of the new key signings are contributing one some level (most), and they still have the same impressive midfield pairing of Keaton Parks and James Sands. When you add in the fact goalkeeper Matt Freese is having a career year stopping shots, you have a formula for a team that can hang with the best teams in the East.

Now, they’re still young. And there are still imperfections. Plus, seriously, someone is going to have to explain what happened to Talles Magno because he seemed like a sure thing two years ago. But this is a team that’s clearly starting to pull itself out of a rut. They may not be a true contender when all is said and done. However, things have clearly changed for the better. A young and talented group has clicked in attack, and they’re as steady as ever defensively. It didn’t take long, but NYCFC are back to where we’re used to seeing them.

Other things

Toronto FC's Bernardeschi named Player of the Matchday: Federico Bernardeschi scored his first MLS hat trick in Toronto FC's 5-1 rout of CF Montréal, earning him Player of the Matchday honors for Matchday 15. The former Italian international was lights out at BMO Field, striking three times in Rivalry Week presented by Continental Tire action to guide TFC to their most lopsided win ever over their Canadian Classique opposition.

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