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Frustration in the Bronx as NYCFC draw 2-2 with Atlanta United

New York City were four minutes away from celebrating Nick Cushing’s first MLS victory as manager

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York City FC
It was a draw that felt like a loss.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A new streak has arrived: New York City FC are winless in five games after a 2-2 draw with Atlanta United Sunday evening at Yankee Stadium. New York City’s attack looked lethal throughout, but failed to bury their chances and left the door open for Atlanta to sneak in and take a point back home with them.

Nick Cushing is still looking for his first win as interim head coach, and Sunday should have been the day he was celebrating with his team for the accomplishment. However, NYCFC did not bury Atlanta and let them hang around. In MLS, teams better make sure to put away the team they’re playing, especially when the other team has Josef Martinez.

Now teams with poor road form are taking points at Yankee Stadium — coming into this match, Atlanta only had four points from eight away games. If New York City want to reclaim their throne atop MLS, then they need to start winning games like these.

Game Stats

NYCFC : 13 shots, 3 on goal, 50.1% possession, 451 passes, 82% accuracy, 14 fouls

Atlanta United: 13 shots, 8 on goal, 49.9% possession, 468 passes, 82.9% accuracy, 7 fouls

Lacking A Killer Touch

The most frustrating part of New York City’s performance today was the feeling of being in control, but deep down knowing that the worse could happen. Even when New York City were up 2-1 it felt like it should’ve been more: Notably, if Santiago Rodríguez’s shot from six yards out hadn’t hit the post in the 48th minute, they would have had a more comfortable lead. NYCFC delivered dangerous balls and created chances throughout, yet the game was never truly a runaway for them.

Interim head coach Nick Cushing emphasized this feeling and stressed the importance of taking hold of a game. “The performances have been good, but we didn’t get that two-goal cushion,” Cushing said postgame.

Cushing continuously lamented the fact that New York City could not grab another goal to go up by two. It seemed like New York City’s attack calmed down after going up by a goal both times Sunday evening. The NYCFC attack looked dangerous when they were level Sunday evening, but as soon as they went up a goal it almost disappeared: They took their foot off the gas.

Sunday evening was another example of how the attack turns off at times and seemingly disappears. If New York City want to regain their monstrous form, they’ll need to keep the attack going no matter the scoreline as Cushing noted.

Tinnerholm is Back

If there’s a main positive that NYCFC fans can take out of this disappointing draw, it’s the full return of Anton Tinnerholm. Tinnerholm started his first game since rupturing his Achilles against Nashville back in October of 2021. During his absence, something was missing from the attack despite strong performances from Tayvon Gray. One reoccurring issue throughout Tinnerholm’s injury was a lack of quality, consistent attack coming up the wings from wing-backs.

Just like that, Tinnerholm brought back the ferocity down the wing and turned in a vintage performance without missing a beat. Interim manager Nick Cushing shared similar feelings.

“He created dangerous chances that should’ve resulted in more goals,” Cushing said. “The Anton of old was back.”

It was refreshing to see those attacking runs from the Swede down the right side once again. Tinnerholm was unlucky to walk away from this one without an assist. It was his pass that resulted in Rodriguez’s shot off the post that could’ve changed the game and made it 2-0 for New York City.

Despite being subbed off in the 67th minute after a tackle from Atlanta, Tinnerholm is expected to be available next week when NYCFC face New England Revolution. He was walking around the field with his daughter postgame, and Cushing said he was just tired and picked up a knock after the tackle.

The Santi Dilemma

A question that has been building since Maxi Moralez has re-claimed his No 10 position is: What happened to Santi Rodriguez? Santi has played on the right and has been relatively ineffective. Sunday evening was no different. Santi was uninvolved and seemed disconnected from the rest of the attack. While he was filling in for Maxi as the number ten, he played well and filled in quite nicely for the Little Genius. That run of form seems to be gone now as his one major moment of the match rang off the post.

While Rodriguez tries to figure out his side of the attack, his two attacking partners on Sunday linked up nicely on both goals.

And then again in the second half.

Now, the question has arisen of what to do with Santiago Rodriguez. Should he move back to the No 10 spot? If so, then where does Maxi Moralez play? If not, should he just keep trying to figure it out at right wing?

As far as what Nick Cushing thinks about all this, he said postgame that Santi can play anywhere in the front three and that he’s been one of the best players. He also noted that when a player performs exceptionally well for a while, even just a slight dip in form will make people think he’s not playing well. While in reality, they are still playing well just not as well as they were before.

The curious part of all this was Cushing’s decision to sub off Magno instead of Rodriguez in the 59th minute immediately after New York City went up 2-1. Cushing explained the substitution as one related to fatigue. Rodriguez was suspended Wednesday night due to yellow card accumulation while Magno played 71 minutes.

NYCFC, Taty Castellanos 37’
Atlanta United, Josef Martinez 56’
NYCFC, Taty Castellanos 58’
Atlanta United, Dom Dwyer 86’

Atlanta United, Aiden McFadden, time wasting, yellow card 16’
NYCFC, Maxime Chanot, foul, yellow card 18’
NYCFC, Santiago Rodriguez, foul, yellow card 24’
Atlanta United, Luiz Araujo, foul, yellow card 47’
NYCFC, Talles Magno, time wasting, yellow card 52’
NYCFC, Alfredo Morales, foul, yellow card 71’

Attendance: 17,704

Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Assistant Referees: Brian Dunn, Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Matthew Corrigan
VAR Referee: Daniel Radford
Assistant VAR Referee: Robert Schaap