Cushing Reaction | “We Are Ready To Fight For The Championship."

Nick postmatch cele

New York City Football Club are determined to defend the MLS Cup, according to Interim Head Coach Nick Cushing.

The Boys in Blue advanced to the Conference Finals with a superb 3-1 win on the road, thanks to goals from Maxi Moralez, Héber and Talles Magno, to set up a trip to Philadelphia Union next weekend.

Gained an early lead and striking twice on the counter-attack to race into a three-goal cushion, Cushing was once again delighted with the manner of the performance, hailing his team’s fight, decision-making and game management.

“We have a lot of momentum,” he reflected. “I think the two playoff games have showed two sides of our game: against Miami, we played a lot of football, we were dominant; here, we played some football and we were deadly on the counter-attack, and we showed we can suffer and defend the box.

“I knew the game would be 50-50 because they are an exceptional team, Montréal. They are really well-coached and they play really good football – they have both sides of the game: they can score from crosses, they can pass it, they can go direct with pace… This team in Montréal will become a winning team, I’m sure of that.

“We wanted to be better with the ball [than we were on our last visit to Stade Saputo] but we also knew there would be moments when we’d have to play low, and we’d have to suffer, and we knew we would get the chances on the counter-attack with Santi [Rodríguez], Gabby [Pereira], Héber, Maxi...

“We wanted to be clinical in the box, and we showed that with the goals, and then with the penalty – that we can go forward, and that we have quality when we have to suffer. We’ve learned that as long as we play in the moment and we stay logical, and don’t get emotional or desperate, we can get over the line and win in any way.

“It’s really important. One thing we’ve learned, especially if we can cast our mind back to New England and Portland [last season] is: it’s not going to go all your way and in playoff football, even if you’re 2-0 up, you’re going to give opportunities to cross the ball, you’re going to give chances away and you’re going to have to rely on individuals to be at the top of their game.

“You’ve seen that at 1-0, 2-0 and then in the end, when we’ve got 10 players – it’s unfortunate that Talles picks up the injury, and it looks like he can’t play on – that we just started defending the box.

“Then you just have to rely on the group’s mentality and individuals’ mentality, and I thought we showed that we’re ready to play and we’re ready to try and fight for the Championship.

“I think that gives everybody a lift, knowing that as long as we play the moment, we have a good chance of getting results against anybody.”

New York’s task was made more difficult at Stade Saputo with Maxime Chanot forced off early on and Moralez substituted at half-time, before Talles Magno’s injury setback reduced his side to ten in the latter stages.

Cushing admitted it is too soon to know whether they will be in contention for the Conference Final but says the trio and backroom staff will do all they can to aid a quick recovery.

“I will trust our doctor, our medical team, our performance team,” the Head Coach added, when asked of Moralez’s potential availability. 

“He came off the pitch against Miami and he played today. Of course, he only lasted 45 minutes but Maxi has been incredible for us and I will never write him off – he’ll do everything he can to be ready for Philadelphia. It’s a Final and he’s a big player, and big players make sure they’re ready.”

Despite his setback, Chanot made a crucial contribution, providing encouragement from the sidelines – further evidence, Cushing continued, of the Defender’s leadership qualities.

“It's essential,” he said. “He was probably at his best when we went through the run of not winning football games. He’s an experienced guy, he’s a New York guy – of course, he’s not from New York but he’s been here for so long!

“This is his team, he wants to win, and he’ll do everything he can to be ready for the next game. It doesn’t look too serious but we knew he was going to be put under pressure, so we’ll leave him with the medical team and whatever happens in the future, he’ll be there, giving his all for the team. It’s essential we have guys like Maxime in our group.”

City’s trip to Philadelphia will see last year's MLS Playoff Conference Finalists go head-to-head once again, with the Boys in Blue having triumphed in dramatic circumstances in our last post-season trip to Chester, courtesy of a late Talles Magno strike.

With the two sides locking horns again, the pre-match discussion will talk of opportunities for revenge or reprise – but Cushing admits the 2021 encounter will have little bearing, with much change since.

“Ultimately, we're going to plan for a football game,” he stated. “I understand you are going to write the narrative of last year's Eastern Conference Final. I expect a Philadelphia team – especially the 12 guys that didn't get the chance to play – to be incredibly motivated to make the result the other way. 

“For us, we just have to play a football game. We have to make sure that – like we did today – whatever that game throws at us, that we can be the best version of ourselves. We'll have to defend the box well, we'll have to sit low in moments, we'll have to be good with the ball, we'll have to create chances and be clinical…

“What we've done really well in last year's playoff run and this year's is just play the next game – forget the emotion, forget the occasion, forget the narrative that people are trying to write and just be ourselves and play. If we do that, and we continue to just focus on the next game and keep winning, then who knows where you get to...?

“We've done that previously, and we managed to finish third, beat Miami, and now we've beat Montréal, and we'll continue to do the same thing.”

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