Nick Cushing | “We’ve Got Another Level In Us.”


Nick Cushing believes his New York City side are yet to hit their level in 2023.

The Boys in Blue have recorded a mixed start to the season with two wins, two defeats and three ties – the most recent a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United on Saturday.

Though the Head Coach was pleased with his team’s response to falling a goal behind against the in-form Five Stripes (who were reduced to ten when Franco Ibarra was sent off on the hour), he admits he and the squad expect more from themselves, especially on home soil.

“It feels like an opportunity missed,” Cushing reflected. “We played against ten for part of the game, and we had the chances at the end – chances you remember – but Atlanta are a really good team.

“It always feels like a missed opportunity [when we don’t win at home] because we’re so used to winning here, and we want to win for our fans.

“I’m content with the performance but we know we've got another level in us.

“We started slow, and a little bit too passive, and we grew into the game as it went on. We got a foothold in the game with the ball, but we didn’t create enough clear opportunities.

“We had moments where we got into good areas of the pitch, moments where we can create clean chances, and we know we have to improve on that – we have to continue to work with our team to make sure that when we have the momentum, and the control of the game, we create clean chances so we can go ahead, and I didn't think we did that enough.

“It's just frustrating because I think this is the first real ‘football’ team we've played this season – and when I say ‘football team’, I mean a team that wants to dominate possession, a team that plays a similar style to us.

“I thought in the first 20 minutes, we gave them too much respect, and too much space. Then, we start to be aggressive, and we start to get up the field higher and get pressure on, and then you can see we start to create chances in transition, and we start to have more moments with the ball.

“You’re going to get these games. We have three home games, and if there are a lot of games where we tie, we’re going to have a lot of missed opportunities.

“We accept it, we’ll look at it to see where we can improve, and we’ll make sure we’re prepared for next week [against Nashville SC]. We know where we need to improve, and we will look at it.

“The guys are frustrated in there because they want to win in front of our home fans. We're not that far away, but we know that we've got work to do.”

Meanwhile, Cushing was full of praise for goalscoring substitute Gabriel Pereira, who marked his eighth goal involvement in his last 13 games with a moment of magic, curling beautifully past Brad Guzan to equalize.

The Brazilian had produced an impressive cameo from the bench in his previous game, crafting the assist for Talles Magno at New England Revolution, and the Head Coach says he has been hugely impressed with his midfielder’s influence.

“He’s a top, top football player, and a guy that is contributing to the team incredibly well,” Cushing hailed. “He’s dangerous for us, and the quicker we can get him in the team from the start, the better the team will be.

“A guy like Gabriel Pereira isn’t going to allow me to sit him on the bench for two, three, four weeks! He arrived late from preseason – through no fault of his own, it was a Visa issue – so he’s not had much preseason.

“We’re trying to get him as sharp as possible as quickly as possible. The plan was always to bring him into the game because he’s so dangerous, and he can have those moments – as soon as he comes inside, and opens the goal, you know he’s got the potential to put the ball in the goal.

“When he came on, he gave us real life. It was an excellent introduction to the game, and we just have to keep pushing him now so we can get him to 90 minutes.”

The Head Coach also shared an update on James Sands, who was forced off, having felt the full force of Ibarra’s challenge, admitting the extent of the midfielder's injury is yet unknown.

“James is in pain,” Cushing said. “He had to come off. We hope it’s not a fracture, or a break. At the moment, there’s a lot of swelling. 

“It’s disappointing. A guy like James Sands always wants to play on. He knows what we think of him. The physios and the medical guys looked at it – his pain tolerance in that moment, whether it was a break or a fracture, and he wanted to go on. He tried. 

“That guy will never come out of a game if he doesn’t have to! He’s a warrior, but it’s disappointing. We hope we don’t lose him now for a period of time. He’s an important guy for us.”

NYCFC are back on home soil next weekend for the second of our three-game home stand.

The Boys in Blue welcome Nashville SC to Citi Field on Saturday, April 16 in a 7:30pm ET kick-off.

Tickets for the game are now available. Don't miss your chance to cheer on the City Boys!

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