Nick Cushing hopes his New York City FC side can use their Campeones Cup triumph as a “springboard” for MLS success ahead of the derby against New York Red Bulls.
The Boys in Blue claimed their second piece of silverware, after the MLS Cup last year, following a 2-0 victory over Mexican side Atlas F.C. at Yankee Stadium.
New York are just four points behind their fierce Red Bull rivals in a battle for third place in the Eastern Conference, and Cushing knows the importance of following up the cup success.
“I never ever felt they were coming apart or that they were checking out a little bit – there was always belief,” Cushing said.
“If you isolate the game, I really believed the team could win. I knew it would be a difficult game but I knew we could win, though of course, in the back of your mind you have the run we’ve been on and the results.
“We have to enjoy this because it’s a big moment for us. It’s an opportunity to be a springboard.
“We have to also understand we have a huge game in two days (against Red Bulls).”
The Red Bulls are six points behind second-placed Montreal CF after a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution last time out, but coach Gerhard Struber is aware of the quality the Boys in Blue possess.
“We can see they have individual power and the team, in the last few weeks, have not been in the best form, but [in the Campeones Cup] you saw their quality,” Struber said.
“The result will have given them a great feeling, they will go all-in on Saturday but we will always fight for the win.
“Home games are so important in the playoffs, it is in our hands and we realize that.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York City FC – Maxi Moralez
Moralez found the net in the Campeones Cup final and could be a real threat here having scored twice and recorded seven assists in 26 MLS appearances in 2022.
New York Red Bulls – Lewis Morgan
Lewis Morgan has scored nine more goals than any other Red Bulls player in MLS, with his tally of 14 goals in 29 appearances this year leading the way.
KEY OPTA FACTS
·New York City won the first Hudson River Derby of the season, 1-0, at Red Bull Arena on July 17. NYCFC has recorded multiple victories over the Red Bulls in a single MLS season only once, doing so with wins in June and August 2017. That’s also the only pair of consecutive MLS wins for NYCFC against the Red Bulls.
·New York City FC has lost seven of their last nine games (W1 D1) after suffering just four defeats in its first 22 MLS matches this season (W12 D6). This is only the second time in club history NYCFC has lost seven times in a nine-match span, also doing so in March-May 2015.
·The Red Bulls have collected 30 points on the road this season (W9 D3 L3), most in MLS and most in the club’s MLS history. Only six teams in league history have collected more than 30 away points in a single season, with the Galaxy’s record of 37 in 1998 (in 16 games) still within reach.
·New York City FC led MLS with 2.16 expected goals per match in its first 21 matches this season. In the 10 matches since the departure of Valentin Castellanos, however, NYCFC has averaged just 1.14 expected goals per match, ranking in the bottom half of the league.
·Lewis Morgan’s match-winning penalty against New England on Saturday was his 14th goal of the season. Morgan is one goal away from becoming the sixth player in Red Bulls history to score 15 times in a single regular season and only the second in the last 10 seasons (B. Wright-Phillips – 5 times).