It's official: last Thursday, New York City FC named Nick Cushing as their new head coach. As such, the interim label was dropped, and the Englishman will have a full season to put his strategies and methods into action. He also officially has his first head coach/managerial role for a men’s first team, and his second team overall since leading Manchester City Women’s Football Club from 2013 to 2020.
The move is not surprising since Cushing ended the past Major League Soccer season on a run. Plus, he has been with City Football Group for years, and it is known the organization likes to promote those within the system. He was an assistant coach for the Pigeons since 2020 too, so his experience with the team was what initially led him to be the interim, and now official, Head Coach.
In fact, Sporting Director David Lee confirmed such an ideology when speaking with NYCFC.com. He said, “Providing opportunities and pathways for people to grow their career and develop within our group is something that we take great pride in.”
Of course, there will be questions on whether Cushing is the right fit, despite the fact he led NYCFC to the Eastern Conference finals. Fans of the club and those around MLS will wonder whether he can lead his players to more trophies, and have the success he had back in Manchester.
Naming Nick Cushing as the Head Coach of New York City FC was the right move
Ultimately, no one truly knows whether Nick Cushing is the answer for New York City FC. Only time will tell, and he needs the time of a full season to prove himself. Therefore, naming him as the Head Coach was the right move, at least for now.
For starters, the players know him, and many have worked with him since 2020. It appears they support him as well. During the rough part of the season, anyone could have gone and spoken out about Cushing. If they were truly unhappy, then they could have criticized him anonymously. But that did not happen, and rather players showed they believed in what Cushing was doing.
At the same time, his record is not the best. However, it is notable every coach in NYCFC’s history has had growing pains. Fans were on a “#DeilaOut” campaign a few months before Ronny Deila led the team to the MLS Cup in 2021. Still, some will continue to point to the record.
Hence, it is important to separate the periods of when Nick Cushing was in charge. The European standard, wins-draws-losses, will be used. Overall, he had an 11-5-10 record, and in the MLS regular season, he led NYCFC to an 8-5-8 record. During his time as interim Head Coach, it is best to separate the time into three periods: when he first took over, the rough times, and the end-of-the-year run.
Examining New York City FC’s record under Cushing
When Cushing first took over in June, the period for New York City FC was a little mixed. During this period, he still had Valentín Castellanos, so this involved the games from June 19 to July 23. NYCFC put up a record of 4-3-2, which was a decent record after taking over for Deila. But then, Castellanos left, and things turned not so great.
During that time, one can look at the fixtures from July 30 to September 10. Undoubtedly, fans were not impressed with Cushing, for the Pigeons had a 1-2-7 record. Yet, there were a few losses where the Pigeons played well; silly mistakes in the defense led to some of those losses. The rough period was still an awful experience for both the players and fans, and there were questions whether Cushing was the coach for the job.
Nevertheless, while he did not lead the team to a MLS Cup, he did change the tides by finally changing the lineup tactics. NYCFC finished the season with a 6-0-1 record, and the one loss was from the Eastern Conference final. Things began to click, the defense was much more polished again, and everyone was having fun.
Thus, if you take out the rough period, then Cushing clearly deserves to be Head Coach. All other NYCFC coaches went through rough stretches, and in all honesty, that is part of the game for most teams around the world.
Although, it was thought the coaching change would be seamlessly simple because Cushing was on the staff. That was not the case, but in the end, everyone did adjust. The Pigeons ended the season in third place in the Eastern Conference, won their first two playoff games, and won another trophy from the Campeones Cup. In addition, during that final run, NYCFC played some of their best football.
Moreover, Lee understood the growing pains, but saw the growth from when Cushing took over. He told NYCFC.com the following:
"We have been incredibly impressed at how Nick has been able to take over the Club and lead the team despite some of the obstacles we faced as a team last season, and this is an opportunity he thoroughly deserves. The period from Campeones Cup and throughout the playoffs, you saw a team forming into Nick’s image and it was clear the team had bought into some of the changes that had been implemented."- David Lee
When all is said and done, it has not been prefect, but Cushing deserves the chance to lead New York City FC for a full season. It is too soon to declare a true judgment, which is why the move to name him as Head Coach was the right move. Fans and the rest of MLS will have to wait and see what happens in 2023.