Conclusions from Nick Cushing's first game as NYCFC manager

Jun 19, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York City FC forward Talles Magno (43) controls the ball
Jun 19, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York City FC forward Talles Magno (43) controls the ball / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, New York City FC faced the Colorado Rapids on a beautiful evening in the Bronx.  The two sides met for the first time since 2019, and the Pigeons have never lost to the Western Conference team.  As such, they looked to continue their unbeaten streak, both in Major League Soccer and against Colorado.

Additionally, this was the first match without Ronny Deila, who left the club for a European return during the international break, putting the spotlight on interim head coach Nick Cushing.  It was expected he would mostly follow the game plan set forth by Deila, and the first fixture would be business as usual – and for the most part, it was

With most of the usual starters playing, and then sticking with Deila’s style, NYCFC earned a 1-1 draw against the Rapids.  The players were clearly somewhat rusty in the first half, and took some time to get back into the rhythm of play.  Once they improved in the second half, the team looked much better, and more like the team Deila developed. 

Although the result was not ideal, they still came from behind to grab the point and stay in first place in the Eastern Conference.  It was Talles Magno who scored the lone goal, and brought the Pigeons level.  Unfortunately they could not get that second goal, but overall it was an okay performance for Cushing’s first match in charge of the side.

New York City FC drew 1-1 with the Colorado Rapids

For the most part, New York City FC was strong defensively.  However, the Rapids’ goal came after Alexander Callens slipped and gave Michael Barrios a clear-cut opportunity to score in the 68th minute. This led to the end of the clean sheet streak, which ended at 608 minutes.

Nonetheless, it took about four minutes for Magno to level the score line.  The Brazilian received the ball after an on-point pass from Maxi Moralez, and chested the ball down right to his foot.  With a karate-like motion, the winger kicked the ball into the back of the net, and left Colorado players in a pit of disbelief. 

Meanwhile, there was another controversial no-call on a possible penalty kick decision.  In the first half, Magno had a chance to go around the Rapids’ goalkeeper, William Yarbrough.  Instead, Yarbrough came off his line in the box and tried to clear the ball.  In the attempt, he made contact with Magno, who tripped over the goalkeeper in the box. 

The contact was clear, but the referee did not call for a penalty kick.  Then, VAR confirmed the decision.  Likely, there was the belief there was no clear and obvious error with the decision.  Yet, Yarbrough tripped Magno, who had a chance to move the ball and score.  If that was called a penalty, and NYCFC would have scored, then the Pigeons would have had all three points at the end of the 90 minutes. 

Alas, fans cannot dwell on what has happened. Moreover, there are bigger concerns about Thiago Martins, who went down injured in stoppage time. The defender was in the middle of defending in the defensive third when he went to the ground, and grabbed his left ankle area. He needed help leaving the pitch afterwards, but put some weight on his left foot. Hopefully the injury is not severe, and he will be okay.

Some good news for New York City FC

Despite the result and Martins' injury, there is some good news for New York City FC, which was confirmed with the announcement of the lineup and bench: Anton Tinnerholm is back. The right-back last made an appearance for the club on October 3, 2021.  He suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, and was confirmed to miss the rest of 2021 and part of the 2022 season. 

Fortunately for the club, he returned to full training back on or around June 9.  It was somewhat shocking that Tinnerholm returned so quickly, for it was assumed the Achilles tendon injury would take longer to heal.  However, according to the Mayo Clinic, the average person resumes normal activity in four to six months.  Regarding athletes, Sports MD said those who go the surgery route often heal in six to nine months.

Of course, athletes are different, for they have to get to full health in order to play and compete.  Yet, it might take some time for Tinnerholm to regain full fitness. Hence, he did not play, but was available on the bench.  Luckily, he was only completely out for a little over eight months.  This is good news for the Pigeons, especially if the injury Martins suffered is severe, and he is out for some time.

In the end, Cushing had a decent result in his debut as the head coach, and the team seemed to find themselves again as the fixture progressed.  Yes, there was controversy once again, but at least the Pigeons still earned a point.  Plus, they increased their unbeaten streak to nine in Major League Soccer, and 12 in all competitions. 

Still, there is no doubt that New York City FC will be under the microscope of MLS fans and media, especially with the many road games ahead.  What they will do under Cushing, and then with the remainder of the season, is yet to be determined.