Nick Cushing | “We’re Desperate For The First Road Win.”

Nick RSL

Nick Cushing says his New York City side are ‘desperate’ to claim a first win on the road in 2023.

The Boys in Blue travel to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in the ninth trip of the campaign, looking to build on last weekend’s home draw with New England Revolution.

Having claimed just three points on opposition soil so far this term, Cushing asserts the squad are fully focused and hungry to return to winning ways and earn a fresh start.

“We know we’re going to have to play well,” he said, previewing the visit to Utah. “We’ve felt the difficulties of road games, even though in some of them we felt we should have got more out of them when we’ve played well; we’ve tied a few... 

“We’re so desperate to get that win on the road. The motivation and the desire of the team is there – I’ve seen it again in training this week. Although we didn’t win a home game [in the three-game home stand] – and we have really high expectations of our home games: we want to win them – this period is almost galvanizing the team, bringing it together.

“If you look at the individual games, Nashville in the first game was difficult – we didn’t have our full team, and although we lost the game 2-0, the second half was positive… I was disappointed in the Toronto game, and the Houston game. In the others, apart from the result – we should take something from Charlotte game but for an own-goal and a slow start, a set-play…

“Against Red Bulls, we should win that game – we shouldn’t lose that. There are many positives – it’s just the result, and that little bit of being relentless, and taking that win. That’s an area that is really galvanizing the team.

“It’s an area we’re growing in. We’re pleased we're dictating games away from home – that gives us the opportunity to win it. We’ve been pleased with the amount of goal chances we've given away on the road – we don’t give much away.

“Ultimately, it’s about the next step for us: having the real step in taking the win. We’ve had the performances that could pay back wins, but we’re realistic: they haven’t.

“We don’t make excuses, we just make sure we review and reflect, and make sure we make the step now as a team. We have to fight hard to take wins on the road. We’ve seen in past seasons with some of these players – that we can go on the road and win – but with this team, we haven’t seen it yet, and it’s definitely an area we want to develop.”

RSL have also endured a mixed campaign but head into the clash on the back of successive victories, including Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup quarter-final triumph over LA Galaxy.

Though the Utah outfit have shipped the most goals in the Western Conference, Cushing anticipates a challenging fixture for his team, with only one road win for either side in the previous six meetings.

“It’s a difficult game, we know that,” he added. “I watched them last night. They’re a good team. They have dangerous offensive players, but we know that if we play the game, we probably should have won against New England – we just didn’t get the goals, and we didn’t finish off those chances we created.

“If we don’t apply ourselves properly, we don’t win football games, and for sure, this game will be difficult. We have to make sure we fight but we have to make sure we play because if we give them space, they’re a really dangerous team.”

In the midst of a challenging period of injuries and suspensions, Cushing has had to make changes in recent weeks – and will do so again for this weekend’s encounter with Maxime Chanot suspended for the clash.

Though disappointed not to have a full roster at his disposal, the Head Coach asserts every player in the squad is pushing for minutes, ready to fill in wherever needed. 

“We have a lot of players who are champing at the bit,” he continued. “When Maxime Chanot is suspended and Thiago Martins is injured, we rely on those guys, and it’s about making sure those guys are ready. I’ve been really pleased with their attitude and the way they’ve trained.

“Justin Haak is a good example of that – he didn’t play much football, then went in, in the Open Cup game, came out again and was really motivated to play in a slightly different position in the last game.

“We have the likes of Tony Alfaro, Nico Benalcazar… We’ve relied on MLS II all season – you’ve seen that with the likes of Stephen Turnbull coming in and playing; you’ve seen our squads in preseason with the likes of Maximo Carrizo… Gabe Segal started off as an MLS II player and was promoted to the First Team almost immediately...

“That’s a sign of the good work we’re doing here with the Academy, with the MLS II team – Matt [Pilkington] does an incredible job with MLS II.

“It’s good to be able to call upon those guys. They’ve shown that if you keep yourself ready, and you’re professional, the opportunity will come – and that when that opportunity comes, you have the opportunity to take it.”

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