New York City FC believe 2024 breakthrough "reinforces the process"


Lorenzo Insigne may be surprised to hear it, but New York City FC head coach Nick Cushing was relaxed and easy-going after Saturday night’s 2-1 win over Toronto FC, their first of the 2024 MLS season.

About an hour prior, as both teams were heading towards the Yankee Stadium locker rooms for the halftime break, Cushing and the superstar Italian forward appeared to have a heated verbal exchange, to the point TFC teammate Deybi Flores also got involved by lightly pushing the NYCFC manager.

“We lost our home opener, we went one-nil down, we went 1-1,” Cushing explained post-match about the tensions that boiled over into his unexpected run-in with Insigne.

“I thought there was a lot of fouls in the game. I said to the fourth official, 'Our game is about rhythm.' And when we have rhythm and intensity, we can entertain the fans and play."

The Cityzens eventually found that rhythm and intensity, canceling out Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty’s 7th-minute opener with two spectacular goals: Santiago Rodríguez’s brilliant free-kick in the 24th minute, followed by Kevin O’Toole’s game-winning header off a phenomenal service from Julián Fernández (65’).

A Keaton Parks red card three minutes later left the hosts down to 10 men, forcing them to see out the match in ultra-defensive mode, but the victory was secured.

“I want to be able to take the game to the opposition with 10 players and defend the game with the ball, but you’ve got to manage the situation, you’ve got to react to where we are as a group,” Cushing explained of his late-game tactics. “And ultimately the most important thing for this group, at this moment, was to not concede another goal.”

However, what most matters to Cushing now is the push this could give to a young, talented squad that got even stronger this year with the high-profile offseason arrivals of Hannes Wolf, Jovan Mijatović and Agustín Ojeda.

“It gives confidence, it’s payback for good work,” the Englishman said. “It reinforces the process. And that is the most important part, when you’re on a journey, you take the knocks, you have to go through the process.”

Next on that journey are visits to Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati (Matchday 6) and the Lionel Messi-led Inter Miami CF (Matchday 7) – a two-game road stretch that could ultimately decide whether NYCFC can compete with the Eastern Conference's elite clubs.

"Where are we in the process? I think we're further than people think," Cushing said of the club's 1W-3L-0D record to date.

" ... But I understand results are everything. Results are the most important, and results are what I should be judged on. I understand that and I accept that."