Hat Trick: NYCFC Momentum Into Break 


NYCFC coach Nick Cushing has been patient and four weeks ago he said his team was responding after a slow start to the season. He vowed this team could score and there would be that ability to get those important three points in the MLS Eastern Conference standings.

Then, NYCFC was struggling. There was that early season cause for concern but after their fifth straight win Friday night at Yankee Stadium, 5-1 over San Jose, his team has momentum going into a two-week bye period. They score and with three more points are sitting as one of the top three teams in the league.

But there was more to this win in the Bronx. Maxi Moralez, who tore his ACL last September, returned to the pitch as a substitute in the 74th minute. He immediately made an impact and helped create a goal.

And that goal was one of three that Alonso Martinez scored in the final ten minutes with stoppage play. A hat trick for Martinez, one of six players in the league who have scored three this season. Four weeks ago, this did not seem possible, but Cushing said all along it was a matter of time, though he was pleased more with getting three more points in the standings. Only once in their brief history has NYCFC scored four goals in a span of 15 minutes.

So this was encouraging. Cushing sees a team going into the break with momentum with their next match in the Bronx June 14, opposing Columbus of the Eastern Conference.

We have the players to do it,” he said with a smile. “They work hard and it was coming together. I want our team to play well. I want our team to perform, I want our team to defend well. The three points is probably the most important part. I have written on my office wall for everybody when they come in, the most important thing is three points.”

All along during their early struggle, a time when NYCFC got the draws, and one point, Cushing said his team was close to getting those three points. This winning streak has reminded many of the late 2021 season surge and NYCFC championship Cup team of 2021, then with league leading scorer Nick Castellanos and their first championship.

When I came here in 2020-2021, we used to have crazy games,” said Cushing “We had crazy games where the crowd is up, and I want to go back to those days where we deliver for our fans. It’s been a long time coming this, putting goals on the board, getting the fans cheering, getting the atmosphere up and delivering what our fans deserve, attacking football goals. I’m happy for the fans.”

And those 20,188 witnessed the hat trick, Martinez making club history, and NYCFC matching their longest club winning streak. Yes, this team has momentum and goals that were once hard to find are coming in bunches. Midfielder Santiago Rodriguez has recorded goal contributions in four of the last five games in league play. Scoring twice and assisting three other goals.

I’m very happy that I scored another goal,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “It’s personally very important with the way that the game was going, scoring two goals gave us some tranquility. Then afterwards came Alonzo’s [Martinez] three goals and what he did was incredible.”

Their third goal in the 85th minute and the return of Moralez, an assist was a pass inside from the right that found Martinez with space and past the goalkeeper. The bench erupted and Cushing was not shy about his emotions.

Martinez said the hat trick was instrumental to his career. Though the attention was about the return of Moralez who provided an added boost to keep the momentum going for NYCFC.

Phenomenal for the team,” said Martinez through an interpreter when commenting about the return of Moralez. I believe that tonight was great, the return of Maxi was very important for us to take advantage of. Once he is back, he is going to contribute a lot for us.”

Moralez is expected to get more time on the pitch after the break. That makes NYCFC much stronger up front and with their momentum, he could be a factor.

You could sit here now for the next five hours and talk about Maxi Morale,” said Cushing. “Since I’ve been here. He is the greatest player to ever play for our football club. He’s had the biggest impact. He’s almost like having a coach on the field when he plays like he did tonight. It’s an absolute masterclass.”

But this NYCFC team has responded to their coach and the results have shown. A hat trick is rare in this league and getting three points seemed an impossible task a month ago. For now, though a well deserved break.

To really enjoy it, drink a cold beer, see three, four, five go in is important for our football club,” Cushing said.

Rich Mancuso X (Formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

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 BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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