New York City Football Club Head Coach Nick Cushing says Saturday’s trip to New England Revolution presents the ideal challenge for his side to kickstart their 2023 campaign.
The Boys in Blue travel to Foxborough looking to return to winning ways, following last weekend’s road reverse at Houston Dynamo.
With the Revolution sitting top of the Eastern Conference with four wins from their opening five games, Cushing anticipates a tough test but believes the difficulty of the fixture will further stir his players’ motivation to set the season back on track.
“These are the games we need,” he declared. “We’ve been to New England throughout my time here as Assistant Coach and Head Coach, and they were always really difficult games.
“They are a team that are really physical, a team that want to try and disturb our rhythm, whether it be with the way they play – going long, getting the ball wide – or whether it’s being physical when we have the ball, and trying to disrupt our play.
“It’s a challenge, but the nature of our league is that every time you go on the road, it’s a challenge. I think we’re probably looking more at the Houston game than we are at the New England game in the way that we want to be better...
“We know New England is going to be an incredible challenge, but we know that if we’re better than we were in Houston, we’ve got a good chance of getting some points. There are areas of our game that we know that if we improve, we’ll become a much better football team.”
The Head Coach also shared an update on the squad, with Maxime Chanot and Mitja Ilenič back in contention following international duty, while new recruits Richy Ledezma and Tony Alfaro are pushing for minutes.
“The team is healthy,” he stated. “We have everybody training, we have everybody pushing, we have another day of training tomorrow.
“We’ll continue to fight hard in the short-term, but continue to develop this team across the season, knowing it’s a hard season. It’s a season that has a lot of games, three different competitions, and it’s part of the process.
“The team has trained incredibly well this week. The intensity of training again is really high, the hunger and the desire is there, and I’ve been really impressed with – although we lost the [last] game on the road – the approach and the application of the team moving forward.
“The hardest part of my job when we keep the squad healthy, and we get training to where it is now, is selecting 11 players.”
On Ledezma, Cushing continued: “What he will bring is real technical ability, a really good understanding of how we play our style because he’s come from a league, a team where it’s very similar to the way we play – very positional, play between the lines, create space for each other, get on the ball, and go and attack the game.
“Offensively, he can bring us a lot. He’s done incredibly well this week, and really impressed me. Although it will take him time to get into his rhythm and develop those relationships, when you are a guy of his ability, with his game understanding and potential, that’s going to come quicky.
“He’s for sure going to improve us, and he’ll give us that offensive play we need.
“Tony Alfaro is training incredibly well. The squad is competitive, but Tony is pushing really hard to be in the team, and has to continue to work, whether he’s selected or not, has to continue to be the guy with enthusiasm – that's what we demand from our team, whether you're in the team or not, because you've seen over those games, especially [Inter] Miami, and D.C. [United], that the bench made us better.
“The bench improved us, and I think we got a little lift from the bench in Houston, so if we bring guys in, or we bring guys off the bench, they have to make us better.
“The team has analyzed the performance [against Houston]. We've had many meetings, conversations individually around how we become better in a game like that where we want to be more offensive, we want to create more.
“The way to improve the decision-making is to continue to build relationships. We have some really good football players in our team: Santi Rodríguez, Gabriel Pereira, Talles Magno… those types of guys are the guys that in the final third, their decision-making is excellent.
“But when you’re trying to develop that cohesion, and those relationships, when you have change, it does take a little bit of time – understanding players’ runs, understanding how we play collectively in that final third… It’s been a huge area this week, and an area we’ll continue to work at.
“We’re going to continue to work, and the most pleasing part of it is watching the intensity, and the desire, and the enthusiasm that these guys have to work together, to try and make sure we can get into our rhythm for the full 90 minutes – on the road, at home, week in, week out.”
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