New York City Interim Head Coach Nick Cushing was delighted with his side’s fight and determination in Sunday’s superb comeback win over Orlando City.
Talles Magno's late strike snatched a precious three points, after Alex Callens’ third goal in as many games had canceled out Facundo Torres’ opener at Red Bull Arena, as the Boys in Blue secured home field advantage in the Playoffs with a spirited second half display.
Cushing was thrilled to see his squad showcase their battling qualities to fight back from behind to win, and says the MLS Cup Champions are looking to build a strong run of momentum in a bid to retain their trophy.
“The guys are just really happy,” he reflected. “Clinching is really important to us, league position is really important to us and getting wins for our fans is the main thing.
“I was really pleased with the performance. I said at half-time: I thought we had another level – we were a bit sloppy at times in our build-up, turning balls over and giving counter-attacks away.
“We consistently talk about how we play our best football, irrelevant of results or whether we go one-up, one down – how we continue to play to put the opposition under pressure so we can: one) control the game, but two) create chances.
“I knew they were only going to score from a set-play or a counter-attack. We can control counter-attacking and we’re good on set-plays so we’re really disappointed with the long-throw [for the opening goal], and we’ll look at that one.
“We made a couple of substitutions to try and inject a bit of energy – Anton [Tinnerholm] is somebody that offensively gets us in really good positions, and Keaton Parks is Keaton Parks: he’s always going to give the team energy, and his ability is really offensive.
“We gambled a little bit, brought two really offensive players on, but I knew that if we got a goal, we could really go and take the game.
“Of course, the locker room is really happy because of a win but there has been a really good feel since we started to perform better.
“[After] Cincinnati we were really happy but disappointed with the result, then Charlotte… Then we had the wins against Atlas and Red Bulls, and then we have a two-week break and we finally get a bit of momentum.
“I felt that pre-game. I knew it was going to be a difficult game because of Orlando’s situation and they’re a very good team.
“When you go through the period that we went through, it seems to go one of two ways, and I think you see that in MLS – there’s always a reason why you go through a period when you don’t win.
“Ultimately, we have to make decisions about how we get back on track and one thing I will say is: the group did an incredible job of making sure the momentum, enthusiasm, energy, togetherness, the belief was there.
“A break gave us the opportunity to put all of those things together and you see again today another great example of a top team spirit: 1-0 down and we won the game 2-1.
Match Highlights | NYCFC 2-1 Orlando City SC
“My hardest job now is picking an XI. Everybody’s pushing so hard, everybody’s invested, the team spirit is brilliant and the mentality is there.”
With New York having now set to kick-off our defense of the MLS Cup with home field advantage in the First Round of the Playoffs, Cushing also called upon his side to finish the regular season with another win to ensure the squad enter the post-season tournament in the best possible shape mentally and physically.
“The result is really important for league position,” he added. “We’re really happy but the season’s not over yet. We need to make sure we continue with the good momentum going into Atlanta
“For us, we want to finish as high as we can in the league. I understand there are connotations to finishing in the top four for home Playoffs and who we play.
“If I'm really honest, being a guy who comes from England, the higher you finish up in the league is how you finish the league, and I want to finish as high as possible.
“My staff are really experienced MLS guys, they’re looking at match-ups and who’s playing where, who will finish here… Of course, you have to look at it really strategically but for me, I want to finish as high as possible, and I have a huge desire to finish third in the league.”