New York City FC beat Atlas 2-0 on Wednesday night to bring home the Campeones Cup.
Goals from Alexander Callens and Maxi Moralez in the fourth and 49th minutes, respectively, were enough for the Cityzens to overcome their Liga MX opponents, who had their moments but were largely reduced to shots from distance.
NYCFC's triumph comes at a critical point in the season with the reigning MLS Cup champions enduring a run of just one win and five points in their last 10 games, leaving them in danger of missing out on a home tie in the Playoffs. It's been a slog since the mid-season departures of head coach Ronny Deila and Golden Boot-winner Taty Castellanos.
The Campeones Cup is only a one-off showpiece event, but can lifting more silverware help propel this team back to greatness?
“It's an opportunity to be a springboard, but we also had a really big win against Chicago away and had a moment on the pitch after that and then lost games,” interim boss Nick Cushing said after Wednesday's win. “We just have to obviously enjoy this because it's a big moment for us, it's another trophy for the football club, but at the same time, the Red Bull game will be incredibly difficult. I think both teams are pushing for position.
“We obviously haven't had many wins in MLS. And I also think our performance at Red Bull Arena earlier in the season will hugely motivate them.”
While Cushing urged caution, his center-back Maxime Chanot was a little more bullish about NYCFC's prospects.
“I do believe the victory of tonight is the start of something big,” Chanot said. “It’s gonna happen with this club and this team.”
Up next for NYCFC is a Hudson River Derby clash with the New York Red Bulls and challenging ties at home to Orlando City and away against Atlanta United. Beyond that, it's sure to be a challenging Playoffs campaign regardless of their form.
But should New York's season end in disaster, Wednesday's victory still gives them something most teams in MLS can only dream of.
“It’s the reason why we do the job,” Cushing said of winning the Campeones Cup. “There’s a moment when the players lift the trophy, and of course, we do this job to create winning teams, but when I look at the podium and I see a guy like Kevin O'Toole celebrate with our team, he made his professional debut today and had an incredible game for a guy that has never played at this level. It just reinforces why we do the job.”
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