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Keaton Parks’ brace lifts NYCFC over North Carolina for first U.S. Open Cup win

Keaton Parks scored twice after halftime and Jesus Medina added a goal as NYCFC cruised in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup against USL Championship side North Carolina FC.

JAMAICA, N.Y. — Keaton Parks struck for a second-half brace to help lift New York City FC to a 4-0 win over North Carolina FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

An announced crowd of  of 2,014 fans turned out for the match at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University on Wednesday night, as NYCFC celebrated its first-ever USOC victory.

“It feels good, feels good to make history with this club,” Parks said. “And I’m happy for the players, for the team, and the fans, of course. I’m sure they’ve been waiting and they’ve been hoping for wins in the cup, to advance and we’re hoping to make it to the finals and win this thing.”

Making history wasn’t lost on the players. It was discussed briefly in the locker room before the game, with last year’s 4-0 drubbing by the New York Red Bulls in the fourth round referenced. It especially resonated with Justin Haak. The 17-year-old, who is the club’s third Homegrown player, has watched all four of the previous Open Cup losses, attending the defeat to the New York Cosmos at Fordham University in person.

“To be a part of the first win, it’s pretty big thing,” Haak said.

Haak was one of several players hungry for minutes, but had played sparingly or not at all in league games, to show they deserved the opportunity. And they delivered in a big way, showing a chemistry even from the opening whistle.

“I’m very happy especially for the players who played today — Danny Bedoya, [Juan Pablo Torres], Keaton, they played really well,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “I was sure because when I say that they deserve to play because they trained very, very hard every single day. I have confidence with these players.”

New York City FC took a deserved lead in the 25th minute on a well-worked play that ended with an own goal by Aaron Guillen. Maxi Moralez chipped to Taty Castellanos, who played outside to Tony Rocha. He sent the ball to the near post, where a sliding Moralez tried to latch on, but Guillen deflected it into his own net.

NYCFC doubled its lead in the second minute of first-half stoppage time thanks to a strike from Jesus Medina, who made his first appearance for NYCFC since coming off the bench against Montreal on May 4.

Rocha played to the back post where Medina took a settling touch with his left foot before firing in with his right to make it 2-0.

In the 52nd minute, Torres played an inch-perfect cross to the back post where Parks headed in his first NYCFC goal to increase the lead to 3-0.

Jun 12, 2019; Queens, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) dribbles the ball against North Carolina FC during the first half at Belson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Parks capped the scoring with his second goal in the 76th minute with a first-time strike after a ball from Moralez, who received a pass from Castellanos.

With just one natural center back on the roster in Sebastien Ibeagha, NYCFC played with an experimental back four of Torres at right back, Rocha at left back and Anton Tinnerholm, the usual starting right back sliding over centrally.

“We’ve been playing with five a lot this year,” reserve NYCFC goalkeeper Brad Stuver said. “So for our game in a row to play with four just shows the quality of our guys to be able to adapt to different formations and go out on the day and perform to the best of their ability so a lot of credit to those guys. They made my job pretty easy tonight.”

Stuver was forced into making a double save to deny NCFC’s Donovan Ewolo in second-half stoppage time to earn the clean sheet.

“I was just hoping that we could keep the clean sheet and get out of there unscathed,” Stuver said. “It felt good to get that double save, looked up at the clock to see how much time we had left because I didn’t really want to do that again because that was too close for me.”

NYCFC moves on to the Round of 16 for the first time ever in the 106-year-old tournament. A draw will be held Thursday to determine the club’s next opponent.

“It’s special, especially being here in Queens, my hometown,” Bedoya said. “At the end of the day it’s not about me, just because I’m from here and I went to St. John’s. It’s about the team, it’s about getting that first win. And now we move forward.”

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