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Clean Sheet: NYCFC Hits The Road

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Alonso Martinez celebrating one of his two goals on the night. Image Credit: Ernesto Diaz – Stream Punk Entertainment

Clean sheets are nice when they get them and NYCFC achieved another one with their 2-0 win over CF Montreal Wednesday night at Citi Field. Important though was the win and three more points for coach Nick Cushing, his team gaining more momentum in the Eastern Conference standings.

This one at Citi Field was the finale of a homestand that began at their other venue across town in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium, pinpointing again how NYCFC (11-8-2, 35 points) continues to win at home in the Bronx and in Queens (8-3-1).That’s second best to Los Angeles with nine.

And four clean sheets on the season attributed to keeper Matt Freeze as Montreal continued their attack in both halves of play. Coming off their 4-2 win against Orlando Friday evening at Yankee Stadium, that’s two straight for NYCFC as they hit the road for the next four.

Freeze was the quarterback on every play, significant as it was versus Orlando. And forward Alonso Martinez scoring two goals in both halves was also important, his 8th of the season in the second half a masterpiece with Hannes Wolf assisting on both.

So, everything is in play for NYCFC. Cushing is satisfied but he said there is need for improvement with missed chances and they get tested now on the road, a quick turnaround Saturday at Western Conference Austin FC.

“As a young team, you’ve got to keep drilling it, you’ve got to keep being consistent and keep focusing on playing with that real ambition and that real intensity and aggression that we play with,” said Cushing. “We saw it in Toronto, we’ve seen it in Philadelphia. We didn’t see it in Nashville and LA. Now with Austin, we have a huge opportunity to play the performance that we know gives us a chance to win.”

Chances are NYCFC will have a tough road ahead, then again they are accustomed to scoring the opening goal in regular season play and getting the wins (9-2-1). With goals scored in the ninth and 56th minute, Martinez has contributed to two consecutive matches against Orlando and Montreal.

Martinez has become a catalyst to the offense and also scored a hat trick this season against San Jose. Wolf has contributed assists in two consecutive matches and pounced on a pass that got to Martinez for the first goal, so the offense is in gear to go along with the clean sheets.

“I feel good playing as a nine, and I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity that coach is giving me,” said Martinez through an interpreter. “I really like getting the defenders. I think the speed that I have is my strong suit, and that allows me to score more goals.”

“It’s critical to have a clean sheet,” said Cushing. “When you have a goalkeeper like Matt Freese who performed at a really high level, he deserves clean sheets. For us, it’s about even when we’re up 2-0, 3-0, it’s retaining that hunger, that desire, and that standard to make sure that we get clean sheets because goal difference may come into it at some point.”

Cushing was pleased that his team did not give away many of those goal chances and reiterated that it has to continue to be outstanding.

“My goal is to be the distributor and the leader when we’re in possession on the back because I can see everything,” Freeze said. “I am the quarterback when we have the ball because I can see everything in a way that no one else can on the field, just based on my position. There’s still work to be done for sure, but the team and the coaching staff allowed me to have the time to develop that and keep working on it.”

And the work will continue on this road trip, crucial in many ways because NYCFC plays much better at home. The Eastern Conference has evolved to be a fight for the division crown and teams vying for playoff position, though NYCFC right now is in a good place in fourth place.

Clean sheets and Martinez, all worked well at home.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Mancuso

Tune in with the latest boxing, MMA, and pro wrestling news as Rich hosts” Keep It in The Ring” live on YouTube with Keep It In The Ring. Subscribe to his channel.

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