NYCFC interim head coach Nick Cushing is hoping to use Wednesday's Campeones Cup clash with Atlas as a chance to 'reset' his side's crumbling season.
The reigning MLS Cup champions go head-to-head with Liga MX's Campeon de Campeones at Yankee Stadium on a run of just one win and five points in their last 10 matches.
It's been a story of complete collapse since the mid-season departures of head coach Ronny Deila and Golden Boot-winning striker Taty Castellanos, with the Pigeons now in serious danger of giving up a home tie in the 2022 Playoffs.
However, Atlas enter the match in equally terrible form, also winning just one of their 10 Liga MX matches and sitting 17th in the Apertura table.
Despite the low confidence, there's a trophy on the line and Cushing is hoping that can inspire his players to a drastic improvement.
"This is a great opportunity for us," Cushing told reporters at a pre-match press conference. "It’s back at Yankee Stadium, our home, it's in front of our home fans and it’s a reset, a different competition, a good opportunity for us to take our focus away from the league in this moment and play for a trophy, a trophy we earned the opportunity last year to play for.
"But we know it’s going to be incredibly difficult. We know that Atlas are a good team. Maybe people will perceive they’re not in form because of the results, but it’s a one-off game so both teams are going to be incredibly motivated to take the trophy."
Following Wednesday's showpiece at Yankee Stadium, NYCFC have three more matches to secure a home match in the Playoffs.
The Cityzens sit fourth in the East, four points clear of Orlando City in fifth but having played two games more than their rivals.
What's more, NYCFC face Orlando in their penultimate match, sandwiched between a Hudson River Derby clash with the New York Red Bulls and a challenging Decision Day trip to Atlanta United.
But Cushing isn't prioritizing one match ahead of another. If anything, he wants victory on Wednesday to inspire NYCFC against the Red Bulls and the rest of the regular season as a whole.
"For me, both games are incredibly important," Cushing added. "This opportunity to win this trophy for our club is important because we earned it last year, the opportunity to get a win in a period where we haven’t won games, even though we feel we should have more points and we’ve played well enough to get more points. This can be the catalyst for us going into a Red Bull derby and into the end of the season."
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