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Nick Cushing wins the Quickfire Challenge

The interim head coach pieced together NYCFC’S biggest wins of the year using only the ingredients he found in the locker room.

Congratulations, you made it to the next round | Courtesy

A little less than 15 minutes into Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinal against CF Montréal, New York City FC interim head coach Nick Cushing was given a Quickfire Challenge: His team had already jumped to a one-goal lead, but an injury to center back Maxime Chanot meant he had to abandon the back three system that is the foundation of the run of form that has New York City dominating the Eastern Conference.

Cushing looked at the lineup card and made a peculiar choice: He brought in Keaton Parks. Seemingly the idea was to task Keaton with absorbing the Montréal attack and move the ball through the middle, then reposition the wingbacks to play more defensive roles. Cushing had defenders Malte Amundsen and Samuel Owusu on the bench, and he could have asked either of them to fill in for Chanot and hope the three-back would hold, but he decided that Keaton was what the team needed. It almost didn’t work. Montréal launched attack after attack, and it was only because of the goalkeeping heroics of Sean Johnson that NYCFC stayed in the game — and were fortunate to score an elegant goal against the run of play to end the half. 

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