Nick Cushing has called upon his New York City squad to use their recent frustrations on the road as motivation in this weekend’s Hudson River Derby and beyond.
The Boys in Blue travel to Red Bulls on Saturday in the first meeting of the season, seeking a first away win of 2023, and eager to kickstart the campaign.
The Head Coach asserts the team are desperate to set things right, and believes the clash at Red Bull Arena provides the ideal challenge to further rouse the players’ drive and hunger, with local pride on the line as well as a crucial three points.
“To have a Red Bulls game right around the corner is a great opportunity to really put that frustration on the pitch, and make sure we go that next step, and go and win,” Cushing said.
“The competitive nature of it is why we love the game – because the games mean more than just the football game.
“I can only speak about when I've been here through 2020. In previous years, we've tended to play Red Bulls’ game too much, and they’ve forced us to be too straight as a team, and too direct as a team, and that's not where our strengths lie.
“We had a real rough period over 2021 – we lost, we ended up drawing in the last minute of a game with nine minutes overtime, we then lost 1-0 away, we then lose in Yankee Stadium, which we really felt...
“So in 2022, we had a huge desire to make sure that we put that right. The [U.S.] Open Cup game swung a little bit because of the red card, and then when we went away, we also had some difficult moments.
“We went away to Dallas last year and two days later, had a Red Bulls Derby, and the performance was excellent. We brought them to Yankee Stadium two days after we played Campeones Cup against Atlas, and won the game.
“We’ve felt that now, and we're probably in a period now where we felt the pain, and we've also had the joy.
“I think we can use last year [at Red Bull Arena] as a good as a good example of how we can play the game, but also apply our style – we want to be a football team that plays with the ball, but we understand that there this game is a little bit different to every other game, so there has to be a certain element of fight and competing in the early parts of the game.
“Last year, I was pleased with the way we applied our style at Red Bull Arena – we controlled a lot of the game, and these games swing on individual moments. Saturday will be no different.
“We know we have to be better in the areas that we haven't been good over the past few weeks. We also know that the guys are really up for this game, we're up for the fight, but we also want to make sure that we retain our identity.
“It's all about application, it's all about hunger, it's all about desire – if the game needs fight, we fight, and when we can and when we do, we play, and we can we play our football – but this game will be no different: the team that applies their identity the most, and has the real desire to win will be the team that takes the points.”
Red Bulls head into Saturday's game having endured a challenging start to the 2023 campaign, sitting bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Harrison side installed a new Head Coach this week in Troy Lesesne, and claimed just their second win of the campaign on Tuesday night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against D.C. United.
Cushing insists the change holds no bearing on how his City squad are preparing for the game, with a team effort required from all in Bronx Blue to claim victory.
“Naturally, we’ve played there a lot, so we’re familiar with the facility, with the pitch...” he continued. “We're familiar with playing there, but we also know it's a Derby, and they're going to have good support.
“When I've been there previously, we've had excellent support. Although they put us up high up behind the goal, we can always hear our fans, and we will need the same – we will need the support from our fans, our crowd.
“We know it's going to be a really difficult game. We know that they are going to want to make the game messy – they're going to try and press us high, and try and stop us getting into rhythm – so it's going to be about our composure, and our desire to make sure that we attack the game.
“The coaching change, I think teams naturally get bumps when they change the coach. I don't know so much about Red Bulls, and the inside of the whys and how the coaching change happened… but we'll just prepare for a really difficult game, whoever the coach is, knowing that they have a really defined style.
“We know each other really well and our styles almost clash – it will be the team that can apply that style the best, and that's what I've seen in previous years.
“Red Bulls have forced us to be too straight as a team, and too direct and that's the game that they want, and last year, we were good with the ball, and we managed to win two games, so we know the game, and how we have to apply ourselves.”
Wednesday night yielded exciting news for all at NYCFC with a first look at the Club’s proposed first-ever soccer-specific stadium.
Asked for his thoughts on the vision, Cushing expressed his delight, declaring a bright future for all involved.
“The stadium images are super exciting,” he added. “Everybody inside the facility here, inside the Club, we're all really excited about this project.
“It’s in the early stages, but we're super excited. The images are incredible to see.
“Of course, it's not right there, but it's a look into the future, and it's really exciting for our Football Club.”
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