There’s an imaginary, yet very important line New York City FC have their sights set on.
Currently, the line sits directly under Orlando City SC, who are occupying the sixth and final playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
A mere three points separate sixth and ninth place, where New York City FC presently stand. A victory over Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium can go a long way as the Club strives to qualify for the postseason in their inaugural campaign in the league.
Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1, 970 AM, WQBU).
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“You get to a point in the season where you recognize you’re on the back half of it,” head coach Jason Kreis said ahead of the Week 21 match. “We certainly have no reason to feel we’re out of anything. We feel we’re right on the edge. We look at this game as a repeat of last week. I said to the players ahead of that match (at New England) we’re just three points out (of a playoff spot) and we have an opponent who is very hungry and if we get those three points, we can put ourselves in front of them.
“Here we are now in the same position playing an Orlando team sitting on the playoff line three points ahead of us. If we can get this result and have a strong performance we can really put ourselves in a good place.”
New York City FC (5-9-6; 21 points) come into the match following a 1-0 loss to the Revolution at Gillette Stadium on July 18. Orlando City SC (6-8-6; 24 points) have lost their last two matches in MLS, most recently dropping a 2-0 decision at the Red Bulls on July 18.
Orlando City SC, who suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Chicago Fire on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, are led by Brazilian playmaker Kaka (nine goals, two assists) and rookie forward Cyle Larin (six goals). Larin’s status was in doubt for Sunday due to a red card last week, but Orlando City SC had the one-game suspension rescinded, so the first overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft is available for selection against New York City FC.
New York City FC have added five players in the summer transfer window in an effort to turn the tide and qualify for the postseason. Defenders Andoni Iraola and Angelino made their Club debut in a 4-4 draw with Toronto FC on July 12.
New York City FC welcomed the additions of Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer, and 2006 World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo. The Club also bolstered the back line by signing Colombian central defender Jefferson Mena.
“It feels like it’s a little bit of a second season for us,” Kreis said of the roster changes. “It’s very exciting. Press conferences and stuff like that are nice, but at the end of the day you want to be on the field with these guys putting them all together.
“With the additions of the players we’re making right now, we feel that can be the tipping point that pushes us where we want to be.”
New players or not, the goal on the field remains the same – putting together a full 90 minutes and doing it in the right way. New York City FC is striving to play a possession-based style where the Club dictates the match.
“We’re still trying to obtain our objective of playing a certain way and managing games,” Kreis said. “We have a lot of improvements to make with how long we’re keeping the ball. When we get in our opponents’ half of the field, is there a sense of patience or is it always a sense of urgency? Some of that is borne out by the fact that we’ve been down a goal in first halves of matches in the first half of the season. When the scoreline is that way, it’s always going to be difficult to have patience. We have to still strive to play the game a certain way. I think we’re close. We’re very, very close.”
The addition of Pirlo, a maestro in the midfield, should only strengthen the Club’s possession. The Italian legend has a knack for dictating tempo – aside from his breath-taking free kicks, effortless distribution and vision.
“It’s always been our goal and objective to play a style that would suit Andrea,” Kreis said. “We haven’t always achieved that goal in all our games this year, but it’s been our objective to play a possession game, a dominant game and a game where we dictate the tempo of the match. With someone who dictates the tempo of matches really well, we think this should be a perfect fit.”
Pirlo’s role Sunday is still to be determined, according to Kreis.
Nonetheless, the 36-year-old can’t wait to get on the field and help contribute.
“I’m not here to be a tourist, but to play,” Pirlo said. “It’s something that comes easy to me, something I enjoy doing and something I feel I do well. We still have a long way to go in the season. We have a new team, a team that started from scratch this year. We have to turn a new leaf and try to do our best to reach the playoffs.
“I’m sure with all the work we’ll put into this, we’ll be able to reach that result.”