Nick Cushing exults after NYCFC’s victory. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
New York City FC entered the week as a struggling team, winning but once in its last 10 games.
The Cityzens leave as a regenerated team, having won twice at home – at Yankee Stadium – within a four-day period.
On Wednesday, City defeated Atlas FC in the Campeones Cup, the team’s second trophy in nine months.
On Saturday, NYCFC defeated and deflated the Red Bulls, 2-0, in the Hudson River Derby.
All in all, not a bad week.
“I think what we showed in the last two games and today I knew the game was going to go this way,” Cushing said. “We played some really good football, but we also showed that we can do the other side of the game. We can fight, we can defend, and we can win first and second balls.
“I think people sometimes perceive that we like to play good football, but we don’t have the other side. I think the last two games have shown that against the best two teams that like to be direct and make the game messy, that we can do both sides of the game. I thought the performance with the ball and without the ball was 10 out of 10.”
It was a big, big week for City, which regained much-needed momentum for its postseason push.
During his 2 1/2 years with the club, Cushing has learned how different MLS is from the rest of the world. The Supporters Shield is a nice trophy but the MLS Cup is the ultimate prize.
“The regular season with playoffs is something in Europe that is new,” he said. “I hear a lot and the guys say to me, ‘Just get in the tournament, all you have to do is get in the tournament.’ For us, the performances are there.
“Maybe the stretch of defeats that we had was just part of the process.”
Before Wednesday’s win, NYCFC had a 1-7-2 record over 10 games.
Asked what felt better – winning the cup final or the derby, Cushing replied: “I think celebrations after a trophy are what we do the job for. It is not about me, it is about seeing those guys after putting so much in. Then you see all that happiness, joy and energy after. That is why we do the job.
“I think you can’t underestimate the win today because the Red Bull had a week off and their whole game is about energy. We played a game that was mentally, emotionally, and physically really taxing on us. We got the win against Atlas, then we had to roll into a two-day recovery, with no training time. We have to manage how many tactics, how many meetings, and how much information we put into tired minds. I have to rely on the guys to dig really deep.”