Maxime Chanot is excited about the playoffs.
The colder weather in New York, not so much.
“It’s freezing,” Chanot said after a midweek training session.
For the central defender, that’s his biggest adjustment as New York City FC prepares for its historic first MLS Cup playoff game Sunday in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto FC at BMO Field Sunday night.
“It’s exciting. Now we are in the right time,” Chanot said. “As a football player, it’s exciting to play in games like this.”
Chanot returned to the field last Sunday and helped NYCFC defeat Columbus Crew SC, 4-1, at Yankee Stadium. It was his first start since Sept. 1. He was sidelined for five matches with a back injury.
“I feel good. I was a little bit tired in the last 15 minutes Sunday, but that’s normal,” Chanot said. “I didn’t play for six weeks. Today, I’m feeling good. I worked hard with the physio and everything works well so I’m happy about this.”
Chanot said returning for the regular season finale was also vital to repay the club for signing him in July.
“It’s always important to get integrated with the team. Also for me it was important for the people who signed me, I want to give them back the confidence,” Chanot said. “It was important to play this game to be ready for the playoffs and try to do my best to help my team.”
In addition to partnering with Frederic Brilliant, Chanot played alongside Andoni Iraola in a three-centerback formation NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira utilized against Columbus Sunday, a different wrinkle from the usual 4-3-3 he utilized throughout the season.
“It was a good tactic. Our coach makes his choice and it worked well last Sunday,” Chanot said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do this Sunday. It’s his choice, but the way we played I think worked well and personally I liked it. Whatever choice he makes, everybody is behind him. We trust in him.”
By winning on the final day of the regular season, NYCFC earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, resulting in a bye into the Eastern Conference semifinals and avoiding the midweek one-game Knockout Round matches.
It also means a normal training week to prepare for Toronto FC.
“It was a good advantage to finish in the first two places to avoid these games on Wednesday and Thursday, to be fit and fresh on Sunday,” Chanot said. “It was our objective to finish in first or second place and we did it so we can prepare for the game for Sunday with a good attitude and fresh legs.”
A good attitude, fresh legs and perhaps some extra layers for Chanot.