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Instant Reaction: Progress takes time

Head coach Nick Cushing was uncharacteristically subdued after New York City FC's 0-2 home loss to Colorado Rapids.

Mood | © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The mood was somber in the press room at Citi Field after New York City FC's 0-2 home loss to Colorado Rapids earlier today.

Usually, head coach Nick Cushing is self-assured when answering questions no matter the result. In fact, he's often at his most confident after a loss, and will take the time to carefully explain why his team should have won even if the scoreline disagrees, and why performances that didn't seem to measure up on the field still had underlying positives to take away.

There was little of that tonight as the questions came in. Cushing answered every single one thoughtfully and fully, but you could hear the disappointment in his voice, and see it in his demeanor.

Nick Cushing Postgame Press Conference, New York City FC vs Colorado Rapids, Clip 1


On the face of it, there's nothing remarkable about a head coach sounding grim after a loss.

But Cushing's punchy tone in his press conferences is one of the defining characteristics of his time at New York City. Sometimes, his forcefully positive takes can seem disconnected from what took place on the field, and you have to wonder if he's talking about the same game you were watching. But what others might dismiss as coach speak or Washington-grade spin could also be seen as Cushing going through great pains to protect his players: Better that he catches heat from the press than sacrifice any individual to a media eager to assign blame.

That impulse to keep his players safe didn't change tonight — Cushing didn't throw anybody under the bus. He spoke of teamwork, and resolve, and preparing for Saturday's road game against Toronto FC. But his determination seemed a little less forceful, his voice a little more subdued. The silver linings he always manages to find were a little less shiny.

After all, this was a game that well-drilled, high-performing New York City should have won. Yes, it was against a new-look Colorado that came into the match with a strong 2-2-2 road record. But the Rapids were missing their best player in Djorde Mihailovic, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, and the tight dimensions of Citi Field should have given the home team an advantage. Colorado won the game, but it was New York City's to lose.

"When you win a three-game homestand, you feel like you're on top of the world," Cushing said at the end of the press conference. "And then you lose one, and you feel like you fell off the edge of a cliff."

Nick Cushing Postgame Press Conference, New York City FC vs Colorado Rapids, Clip 2


"This team is on a journey, and it's making progress," he continued. "I said three, four weeks ago that progress is disheartening, right? Progress is demotivating, progress is disappointing. Because this, tonight, is part of it. You have to take the punches and go back and figure out how you continue to progress and improve a young team, a new team, to continue to win football games."

In other words, it's two steps forward, one step back.

We'll see how the progress of this young, new team takes shape when they travel to Toronto this Saturday, then travel on short rest to play Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park a week from Wednesday.