New York City Interim Head Coach Nick Cushing says his team delivered a flawless performance in Saturday's Hudson River Derby.
First-half goals from Alex Callens and Santiago Rodríguez – the first within a minute – claimed a deserved victory over Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium to complete an enjoyed league double over our rivals.
Reflecting on the triumph, which moved the Boys in Blue to within touching distance of the Playoffs, Cushing was full of praise, hailing his side’s quick start and overall display.
“The win cannot be underestimated,” he said, “because Red Bulls had a week off.
“The whole game is about energy. We played a game that was mentally, emotionally and physically taxing on us [on Wednesday] and we got the win against Atlas, which is a big one.
“Then we’ve had to roll into two days of recovery, no training time. You have to manage how much tactics, how many meetings, how much information you put into tired minds. I have to rely on the guys to dig really deep and the performance was 10 out of 10.
“I think the early goal definitely helps because obviously it created the atmosphere and gives us confidence. The fans were incredible.
“I asked the team to start the game well, I asked the team for energy and a real strong mentality at the start of the game because we’re at our home, we haven’t won so many games in the league recently…
“The goal I was really happy with but that whole start to the game: the way the team applied themselves offensively and defensively really set the tone of the game for us.
“I knew the game was going to go this way. We played some really good football, but we also showed we can do the other side of the game: we can fight, and we can defend, and we can win first and second balls.
“I think people sometimes perceive that we like to play good football but maybe we don’t have the other side. The last two games have shown that probably against the best two teams at being direct and making the game messy, we can do both sides of the game.
“I thought the performance with and without the ball was 10 out of 10. The last four days have shown that as a group, we're going to fight for this Football Club for our fans, and for our badge.”
Naturally, goalscorers Callens and Rodríguez were singled out for individual acclaim with Cushing delighted with their contributions, alongside 'legend' Maxi Moralez.
“I can’t say enough about Alex Callens,” he added. “It’s a really interesting stat: if you look at the run we’ve had, and we’ve had a run of disappointing games, we actually weren’t in a losing moment until he went off at 2-2 in Columbus.
“He’s an incredible guy. He’s a guy who has done everything to get the performances he has and in my opinion, at his level, he is the best central defender in MLS by a long way.
“I don’t want to pat myself on the back but we’ve found a system where he actually can be a Striker, Midfielder and Defender all in 90 minutes! He’s giving the team a lot at the moment.
“I don’t think you come across these guys very often. I’ve worked in the men’s and women’s games and there are a handful of really special players: three or four who I’ve coached in my time, and Alex Callens is one of them.
“He’s fun to coach, he inspires me and brings a level to the team that is the next level. I couldn’t say enough about him.
“It was a masterclass from Santi Rodríguez. When you look at MLS and successful teams, they always have guys that contribute to wins and he is a guy, whether it’s with goals or assists.
“He’s an incredible guy, another one that works so hard for us. To make him better, we just have to keep finding him with the ball, giving him the ball.”
On Moralez, Cushing continued: “He is everything. He’s a player, a coach… Those guys are like gold dust because in moments where you’re going to be put under pressure… you need a guy who can almost conduct the orchestra with and without the ball.
“I can’t say enough about Maxi since I came in: not only has he been motivated to produce for the team, he’s also been exceptional for me. A great guy, one I really enjoy working with, and his influence on New York City Football Club can never be underestimated.
”He is a legend of this Football Club and will be written into the legacy of New York City Football Club forever.”