New England Goals: Bunbury 66’, Bou 89’
New York City FC clinched the Eastern Conference and CONCACAF Champions League qualification on Sunday night, despite falling to a 2-0 defeat to the New England Revolution.
A patched-up New York gave as good as they got at the Gillette Stadium but fell to their first defeat in nine games.
Although NYC fell in this one, Philadelphia’s failure to beat Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium means that City cannot be passed in first place, earning the top seed from the East and CONCACAF Champions League qualification for the first time in Club history.
NYCFC wrapped up the regular season home campaign with a rousing 4-1 win over the defending champions on Wednesday night and came into this penultimate road trip of the season knowing one point would wrap up Eastern Conference top spot.
New England came in with their own motivation: the opportunity to clinch postseason soccer and knock out Montreal and Orlando City, so a hotly-contested match was assured.
Head Coach Dome Torrent was forced into four changes to his lineup after losing Taty Castellanos, Maxime Chanot and Alex Ring to accumulative yellow card suspensions, making room for Héber, Gary Mackay-Steven, Jesus Medina and Eric Miller to start.
Despite the numerous changes in personnel, NYCFC looked the slightly more dangerous side in the first half with Alexandru Mitriță threatening twice through the first 45’.
The first opportunity, inside the opening 10’, was one he didn’t quite catch after the Romanian found himself in behind the Revolution defense after some neat interplay across the top.
His second opportunity was on 32’ when he took aim from similar range to his opening goal vs. Atlanta earlier this week but this time his shot flew the wrong side of the post from an NYCFC point of view.
New England did threaten seriously once in the first half but Sean Johnson was there to make a huge save on 22’ as Teal Bunbury whipped a low shot towards the bottom corner and must’ve thought he’d scored.
All tied up at the break, NYC came out on the front foot in the second half with Mackay-Steven and Mitriță both stretching the New England defense increasingly as the game became more and more open.
Mackay-Steven almost opened the scoring just before the hour when he let rip with a dipping long-range strike which had to be clawed away by Matt Turner at full stretch.
Turner again rescued his team on 62’ when Mitriță took aim from an acute angle with a free-kick as City turned up the pressure and went all out for the three points.
The opportunities were mounting up, but the hosts made their first big chance of the second half pay on 66’ when Bunbury got there first at the near post to turn a low cross past Johnson for 1-0.
It was a breakaway goal against the run of play and Torrent responded by bringing Ismael Tajouri-Shradi into the game with 15’ to go but it was Héber who went close to finding the equalizer on 85’ when he muscled in on a cross from Ronald Matarrita but Turner made his third excellent save to maintain his clean sheet.
At the other end, Gustavo Bou made sure of all three points with a deft chip over Johnson in the final minute of normal time.
It was enough to clinch MLS Playoffs qualification for the hosts, while events in Columbus meant that NYCFC’s primary objective for the regular season was achieved in spite of this result.
NYCFC.com Man of the Match
After impressing in an unfamiliar right-back berth vs. Atlanta on Wednesday, Seb once again stepped up for his team, this time sliding in to the center of defense in place of the suspended Chanot.
Ibeagha worked tirelessly for NYCFC, winning duels both on the floor and in the air to limit the threat of the home side.
How We Lined Up
NYCFC XI | Johnson, Miller, Ibeagha, Callens, Matarrita, Rocha, Medina, Moralez, Mackay-Steven, Mitriță, Héber
Subs | Stuver, Barraza, Sweat, Ofori, Torres, Haak, Tajouri-Shradi
One more regular season test awaits on the road at the Talen Energy Stadium where Philadelphia Union will be the hosts next Sunday. Kick-off on MLS Decision Day is 4pm ET.