Momentum Builder Win For NYCFC


They arrived in the pitch at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon and NYCFC in a matter of minutes set the tone with a quick goal in their key meeting with the Hudson River rival Red Bulls. They never looked back and keeper Sean Johnson added to his MLS leading 14th clean sheet.

NYCFC got a significant win, 2-0. They picked up three points in the Eastern Conference standings and for the moment, sit third. They needed this win before a record 30,000 plus in the Bronx.

A win that almost assured NYCFC will have an opportunity to defend their coveted 2021 MLS CUP championship, perhaps opening the postseason with a home game in the Bronx, Citi Field, or at Red Bull Arena.

Their playoff hopes are more secure than determining where a possible opening Eastern Conference playoff series will be played because NYCFC is basically kicked out of Yankee Stadium due to their main tenants involved in the MLB postseason. That similar situation could occur for a Citi Field home venue because the Mets will also be a part of the postseason baseball picture.

Regardless, with two regular season matches remaining, Orlando Saturday at Red Bull Arena and at Atlanta, this win Saturday was a momentum builder that followed a Wednesday face off at Yankee Stadium against Liga opponent Atlas Futbol Club in the 2022 Campeones Cup Final.

That championship cup added to the hardware for the defending league champions, though, not a regular season MLS match, there was a feel of momentum building for this crucial stretch for NYCFC.

So, after the match, before interim coach Nick Cushing convened his post game press briefing, I asked him, “What was the difference?” He said, the team has responded. Cushing smiled when I said, these last two matches with a different alignment in the pitch have to be attributed to him. The coach said thank you and reiterated this is an experienced team that was aware they were not playing to their capability.

I have been here two and half seasons now, the regular season with playoffs is something in Europe that is new,” Cushing said. “I hear a lot of the guys say to me, just get in the tournament, all you have to do is get in the tournament. For us, the performances are there. Listen, I want to win and I don’t want to deliver regular defeats for the fans because our fans deserve wins and the fans today were incredible.”

And, yes, a loyal NYCFC fan base has always been that extra man in the pitch. They cheer and are heard at Yankee, Citi, and Red Bull Arena, also realizing this is the time to build momentum with the playoffs right around the corner.

Alexander Callens and Santiago Rodriguez scored early. The first half set the tone and the NYCFC defense prevented Red Bulls’ attempts to reach the net. NYCFC scored first and set the tone in contrast to their struggles the past month.

Photo: Ernesto Diaz

Callens has fulfilled every part of this momentum and push. Cushing says he has become an excellent striker, defender, and midfielder, having witnessed more of that the past two matches.

We have found a system where he can naturally be a striker, a midfielder, and a defender all in 90 minutes,” Cushing said. “He has give the team a lot at the moment. I do not think you come across these guys very often. I have worked in the men’s and women’s game and there are a handful of really special players.”

He added, his team can’t rely on what occurred last year. He said that is putting NYCFC in a danger zone and the last ten matches have shown “nobody or nothing is going to be given free.” referring to injuries and goals scored against.

More so, Johnson is that special keeper, a major contributor to that late season momentum and run to that first NYCFC MLS Cup. He excels at getting the clean sheet and more are coming during this stretch.

Ultimately, we have been trying to do the same things, trying to make sure our energy level was where it was needed to be,” Johnson said. “So we have shown up the past two games, we know at the bottom of it that we have a standard that we can only play at this level.”

He said, there is another level for NYCFC and that is always pushing. It’s coming at the right time with two wins this week.

Rich Mancuso:Twitter@Ring786 Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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