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NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing
NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing | Courtesy NYCFC.com

Welcome to the latest edition of the Hudson River Blue Roundtable, in which Calvin Anthony Daniel, Andrew Leigh, Matthew Mangam, James Nalton, Raf Noboa y Rivera, Mark Radigan, and Oliver Strand tell New York City FC head coach Nick Cushing how to do his job. 


1. Settle on a goalkeeper

It’s time for Cushing to resolve a goalkeeper situation that has been unsettled since the beginning of the season. The number-one was Luis Barraza‘s to lose, and while he’s almost always picked for the Starting XI, he never quite locked it down. Matt Freese performed well enough in his handful of starts, but he didn’t seal the deal. Now Cushing needs to be the decider: It’s time to choose a goalkeeper, and stick with him. Oliver Strand

2. Make home games count

There needs to be a return to the dominant home form of recent seasons. Success at the majority of venues in New York City was the sign of a team that could fight for honors and give fans something to enjoy. It disappeared this season and the team is five games without a home win, but it could return for the end-of-season stretch. James Nalton

NYCFC playoff picture explained

3. Bring up the tempo

Possession gets its purpose when the ball is passed quickly and precisely: You want to slice and dice the opposing team, not just play keep-away. NYCFC needs to put the slow, predictable passes we saw in the game against the New Jersey Red Bulls in the rearview mirror and once again start playing the kind of confident, uptempo soccer that lacerates defenses. – Oliver Strand

4. Play Birk Risa

Cushing should start a back-three of Birk Risa, Maxime Chanot, and Thiago Martins with Risa at left center-back. The three have plenty of experience, and will solidify the NYCFC defense. Matthew Mangam

5. Play Maxi Moralez

There’s no getting around it. Santi Rodriguez is maybe the long-term replacement for Maxi Moralez, but when the veteran playmaker who was so instrumental in conducting New York City’s offense left, the team looked lost in the tall grass. You’ve got no choice here but to back Moralez. Raf Noboa y Rivera

6. Use a 4-3-3

For long stretches, we saw some variation of a 4-5-1 using a combination of Keaton Parks/Justin Haak/James Sands/Alfredo Morales in a double pivot, and the play was mostly stale and stagnant. With the return of Maxi, who knows how to command a midfield, it’s time to go back to the 4-3-3 that has been a City Football Group staple for years. Push the wingers higher up, give agency to the fullbacks, and control the midfield with Parks, Maxi, and Sands. Calvin Anthony Daniel

Managing the busiest summer transfer window in NYCFC history

7. Play Alonso Martínez

Julián Fernández, the promising 19-year-old winger NYCFC just spent around $5 million to acquire, might be the long-term replacement for Gabriel Pereira on the right side of NYCFC’s attack. Nick Cushing and his team are in must-win mode, though, and don’t have the luxury of waiting for the high-upside teen with limited professional experience to adapt to MLS. Enter: Alonso Martínez, who at age 24 has made over 150 professional appearances split between his native Costa Rica and Belgium. He joins from fellow CFG club Lommel SK, and knows the system: Cushing should throw Martínez straight into his lineup so that the more experienced winger can provide an immediate impact. Andrew Leigh

8. Pick a front three, stick with them

Whether it’s Talles Magno-Mounsef Bakrar-Fernández, Talles Magno-Bakrar-Santiago Rodríguez, or Santi-Bakrar-Martínez, Cushing needs to choose a front three and let them develop their chemistry over this final stretch of matches. The more time they spend together, the better they’ll play, and the more goals they’ll score. Cushing experimented with numerous forwards in many different positions all season, it’s time to pick one trio and let them work. Mark Radigan

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