As was announced Monday morning, NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila departed the club to join Standard Liège in the Belgium Pro League.
Subsequently, NYCFC will promote Deila’s assistant Nick Cushing to the role of interim head coach while the staff begins a search to fill the managerial position. Cushing; who coached Manchester City’s Women from 2013 to 2020, should also be in the running for the job of full-time head coach with the club.
Entering the international break with seven wins from their last eight games, NYCFC is atop the Eastern Conference and in incredible form after starting the season off unsteadily between Champions League and MLS. Now things once again look uncertain with New York City losing their leader and head coach in Deila mid-season and just before they return to MLS action at the weekend.
Deila will be missed by the club and its fans who’ve seen some exciting coaches in recent years including Patrick Viera who’s now with Crystal Palace and Galatasaray’s Domènec Torrent, neither of whom reached the heights that Deila climbed within MLS.
But this is the reality of being a competitive MLS club that looks to hire big-name managers. After a successful season or two in the US, European teams are now going to look at this league for potential opportunities to fill coaching vacancies and Deila should be praised for his efforts in New York but also for receiving another chance at managing in a major European league.
Ronny Deila… absolute legend! 😂#NYCFC x #MLSCup pic.twitter.com/Ra7UapGgdu
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 12, 2021
What can we expect from Nick Cushing?
However, Deila leaving just 13 games into the season obviously puts NYCFC in an awkward position as the team looks to continue pushing for not only a playoff spot but possibly for a Supporters’ Shield or back-to-back MLS Cup appearances.
Thankfully Nick Cushing seems to be the perfect man for the job and in my opinion, Sporting Director David Lee made an excellent decision in promoting Cushing to interim even if just for a brief period of layover.
With Cushing taking charge, much in the way of change shouldn’t be expected around the club as along with Cushing, two of Deila’s former assistants in Rob Vartughian and Mehdi Ballouchy both received contract extensions and will be a part of the staff going forward.
Ideally, Cushing even gets the full-time head coaching position for NYCFC in the near future, keeping the staff and day-to-day operations the same while on the field the team continues to push for MLS Cup with similar tactics and style to what we saw under Deila. And with Cushing, Vartughian, and Ballouchy each claiming extensions, even if the club decides to bring in a new head coach it seems they’ll move forward with the intention of keeping things relatively uniform from the previous manager.
But with that, not only is Cushing well fit for the job having experience as a head coach but he’s also known around the game as very adept tactically having overseen one of the most successful periods in Manchester City Women’s history.
This video from The Coaches Voice of Cushing breaking down the tactics from Man City’s 1-0 win against Lyon Feminines in 2017 really showcases his knowledge and what he can bring to NYCFC. (Not to mention that Cushing coached retired USWNT Captain Carli Lloyd who scored the lone goal in this match.)
New #NYCFC interim head coach Nick Cushing talking tactics back when his Man City women's team faced the challenge of Lyon. pic.twitter.com/k4hdIa5fK2
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) June 13, 2022
Last Word: Deila left at a tough time but Cushing helps smooth the transition
Having a coach leave mid-season is inopportune for any squad and while rumors had been circling Deila for a few weeks, it can be especially difficult following a Championship winning season and while trying to maintain a high level of success. NYCFC have done well this season in finding their form early but realistically are going to struggle through the growth period that comes with a new coach.
Cushing is put in charge to essentially smooth out this transition and growth period while ensuring minimal change for the players from one coach to the next and to help maintain that early form NYCFC has found. He’s an exciting young coach that understands NYCFC’s system and its players well, is equipped with lots of experience and knowledge, and will do a more than adequate job of continuing this team on the right path.
Photo: New York City FC.