It’s been emotional and (we hope) we’re only just getting started…
New York City FC’s MLS Playoffs opponents are still unknown, so while we wait, let’s take a check on some of the key storylines which have made 2017 so special.
Managing Editor Mark Booth takes a deep dive into five things we learned in our third Regular Season.
You only have to look at our place in the standings for the Supporters’ Shield over the past three years to see the progress.
From 17th in Year One, to 4th in our Sophomore year, to 2nd in 2017, whatever happens in the next few weeks, we can clearly see that things are on the up and up.
Perhaps the most telling metric is in points accrued where we’ve gone from 54 in 2016 to 57 in 2017 – a small jump but it grows in significance when contextualized.
All season long. pundits have been making the case that this is one of the strongest Eastern Conference divisions the league has seen, making our three-point advancement hard-won with dedication and consistency throughout the last seven months of play.
Key to NYCFC’s second seeding has been a defensive solidity which has served as a platform for our attacking talents to shine.
New arrivals like Alexander Callens, Sean Johnson and Alex Ring have all earned their share of plaudits in 2017 following excellent campaigns, while it’s easy to forget that Ben Sweat only made his MLS debut this year but has gone on to become one of the first names on Patrick Vieira’s teamsheet.
While the backline has certainly warranted a shoutout for reducing the number of goals allowed by 14 (57 in 2016, 43 in 2017), Vieira would also underline the fact that the whole team is responsible for defending and the pressing from the front is certainly a feature of City this season.
We’ve gone from being the team scored on third-most in 2016 to the side scored on third-least in 2017 – a fact which should equip fans with some confidence going into the postseason.
This team never knows when it’s beat.
If there’s one pattern which defines the season, it’s NYC’s ability to come back from the dead, to turn around matches after conceding the first goal.
Especially through the middle third of the season at Yankee Stadium, it felt like Vieira’s men would go down in every game before roaring back thrillingly to clinch the three points.
This strength of character and ability to dig deep when the chips are down could be key in the weeks to come…
Replacing Frank’s Goals
Frank Lampard’s retirement in the offseason left NYCFC needing to find his 12 goals in 2016 from somewhere.
Conceding 14 fewer has addressed the issue at the other end of the field but Jack Harrison’s continued rise to stardom and his ten goals has really aided City’s best-ever Regular Season showing.
Lampard mentored Harrison in their year together and it looks like he passed on some finishing tips based on the 20-year old’s contribution in front of goal.
Hitting double figures has helped take some of the scoring burden off the captain and even earned Jack his first international callup with England U-21s last month.
Let’s hope Harrison continues to fire as we get our Playoffs campaign under way next week.
MVP Better Than Ever?
Speaking of goals, you can’t leave David Villa out of that conversation…
Our top-scorer for a third-successive year, there’s an argument to say that this was El Guaje’s best year yet even though the reigning MVP scored one fewer goal than his 23-goal haul in 2016.
The injury sustained on international duty robbed David of the chance to top that tally and to run down Nemanja Nikolic for the Golden Boot but if you look at goals per game averages, this was Villa’s most potent year.
Villa averaged 0.72 goals per 90 mins in 2016 but this year he’s averaged 0.77, putting him in the frame to earn back-to-back MVP awards.
OVER TO YOU: What did you learn this year? Does Villa deserve to clinch MVP again? How far will NYCFC go in the MLS Playoffs? Tweet @NYCFC with the hashtag #MakeItHere to join the debate.