The MLS Cup Playoffs are upon us and New York City FC is ready to take on either Toronto FC or D.C. United in the Conference Semifinal next week at Citi Field in Queens.
MLSsoccer.com's Tom Bogert reported, "NYCFC will begin their Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run at Citi Field, the club confirmed Wednesday. With Game 4 of the ALCS between the New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros postponed from Wednesday to Thursday, there's no chance of the series wrapping up in time for Yankee Stadium to prepare for NYCFC hosting a playoff game on Wednesday, October 23."
“We’re extremely proud of the team’s achievement this season and finishing top of the Eastern Conference will provide us with a great platform as we enter our fourth consecutive playoff campaign," Bogert quoted NYCFC's Sporting Director Claudio Reyna. "Should Yankee Stadium be unavailable, we feel extremely comfortable playing our games at Citi Field which has proven to be an excellent alternative venue for the Club. We played a pivotal Decision Day game there in 2017 with our fans providing the same electric atmosphere we’re used to at Yankee Stadium and know they will do the same come playoff time.”
He also included a statement from Brad Sims, the team's CEO, "This season has been incredible and we are excited to kick off our playoff campaign," NYCFC CEO Brad Sims said. "We’re also happy for our partners at the New York Yankees for having a fantastic season, and while we recognize their success could relocate our playoff games and is not ideal for our fans, we’re extremely confident that Citi Field would provide us with the home field advantage needed. On behalf of myself and the entire Club I want to thank our fans for their incredible loyalty, passion and support throughout the season.”
Before looking ahead to the playoffs, let's take a step back and recap City's record-breaking season. MLSsoccer.com's Dylan Butler said, "It is, to partially quote Charles Dickens, the best of times for NYCFC, a club that has come a long way and looks vastly different from the one that played its inaugural game against Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015."
"So how did Reyna, along with technical director David Lee and head coach Dome Torrent, reshape NYCFC into a league elite? It starts with an overriding understanding that comes with a brashness fitting of New York City.
"The club signed Alexandru Mitrita in the preseason as a DP. Then Torrent pressed for the signing of Heber, adamant the Brazilian who arrived via a transfer from HNK Rijeka in March would be the forward the club desperately needed even though he was used primarily on the wing in Croatia.
"Heber netted a team-high 15 goals in the regular season and was a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year. Mitrita added 12 goals. NYCFC scored a club-best 63 regular season goals in 2019, getting production from 12 different sources.
"Torrent credits Reyna with the signing of Keaton Parks on loan from Benfica in Portugal. The young American midfielder, as a result of his work off the ball, eventually became an integral part of NYCFC’s midfield.
"Taty Castellanos, signed midway through last year from Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay — another product of CFG’s scouting network — had a breakthrough season with 11 goals and seven assists and earned a call-up to the Argentine U-23 team.
"Tony Rocha was seen as a depth signing when he arrived in a trade from Orlando in December and proved his value, and versatility, by setting personal records in games played (17) and minutes played (871) after three seasons with the Lions.
"Greater depth means a greater competition for spots under Torrent, who has proven throughout his first full season in charge of NYCFC that no player has a guaranteed spot in his XI. That raises the level at training, which then carries through to match days.
"Then there’s the core, the bedrock of the club. What started last year with Sean Johnson, Alex Callens, Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot continued in 2019 with Anton Tinnerholm and Maxi Moralez inking multi-year contract extensions.
"And while Ring wears the armband, the distribution of leadership responsibility, and for that matter goal-scoring responsibility, is more spread out than in the past when both were squarely on Villa’s shoulders.
"It’s that group tasked with trying to lead NYCFC to a first MLS Cup over the next month and into a first foray in the Concacaf Champions League in February.
"It’s a competition that’s long been a goal of NYCFC. And now that’s a reality. Reyna, who is confident the club will be able to play its home CCL games at Yankee Stadium, said its critical to put forth a team capable of a deep run, while not losing sight of keeping what he calls a “high standard in MLS.”
It was a combination of things that has contributed to City's successful season, but they're just now getting started.
With the first round of the playoffs kicking off this weekend, The Athletic's Joseph Lowery highlighted the 'Tactics at a glance: One thing to watch from every team in the MLS playoffs.'
Lowery went step-by-step providing analysis for each team from West to East. When he got to NYCFC, here's what he had to say, "If Bradley’s LAFC team wasn’t so historically good, New York City FC’s Domènec Torrent would be an automatic choice for MLS’s Coach of the Year award."
"Torrent has found the balance between encouraging fluidity and freedom of expression in possession and maintaining offensive structure. That balance has led NYCFC to a regular season Eastern Conference title and has produced some lovely passages of play along the way.
"New York City can create scoring chances in a number of different ways. They can use high pressure to generate transitional attacking moments, they can move the ball more methodically in possession using off-ball rotations to create space or they can use efficient build-up play and intricate combinations in the final third to threaten the opposition. This clip is a great example of what NYCFC are capable of with the ball at their feet:
"With more quality play like the above sequence, NYCFC could be on the fast track to MLS Cup."
In an effort to stay sharp through the first-round bye, the City Boys are heading to Chicago for a scrimmage.
Pro Soccer USA's Glenn Crooks said, "New York City managed to find an MLS opponent who was willing to play – the Chicago Fire. On Wednesday, NYCFC flew to the City by the Lake and will have a closed-door scrimmage against the Fire at SeatGeek Stadium on Thursday.
“The most important thing for me is to play with the best form and the best form is about rhythm,” head coach Dome Torrent said. “With 17 days you never know what will happen in the first game.”
"Torrent said he approached Sporting Director Claudio Reyna and team president Brad Simms about his idea to prepare for an October 23rd playoff game.
"'We needed to play an MLS team if possible and they tried to find a close team,” Torrent said. “Columbus or Chicago – Chicago said yes, it is not a problem and we can play in the stadium.'
"The scrimmage will also provide an opportunity for a pair of injured players to return to the competitive cauldron."
Before the playoff preparations kicked into high gear, New York City's Football Club joined First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, alongside partners and community members, to unveil the newest group of mini soccer pitches across the city as part of the New York City Soccer Initiative, culminating in a celebration of the vibrant soccer culture of NYC in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Dylan Butler, who also writes for Pro Soccer USA, said "Claudio Reyna vividly remembers the moments that helped shape him as a future soccer star: the games in his backyard against his brother and father and playing against men at Meisel Field in Springfield, N.J.
"They’d lay down shirts for goals in a small-sided games. Teams were picked. If the game got lopsided, the squads were mixed up again.
"New York City FC’s sporting director’s favorite memories, though, were at Farcher’s Grove in Union, N.J.
Reyna can’t share that experience, visually at least, with his children because Farcher’s Grove is no more. But on Thursday in the middle of soccer-crazed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, New York City FC unveiled the latest mini pitch, the 30th of its kind that has sprouted up in all five of New York City’s boroughs.
"This is a memory today’s children will get to share for a lifetime.
"Partnering with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, U.S. Soccer Foundation, Adidas and Etihad Airways, the New York City Soccer Initiative was launched in 2016. The $3 million public-private partnership plans to build and maintain 50 mini-pitches across the city over five years.
"The mini-pitch at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was one of 10 to open by the end of 2019 — two in Queens, three in Brooklyn, three in Manhattan, one in the Bronx and one on Staten Island."
Reyna even spoke with CNN about how NYCFC works on and off the pitch.
Everything NYCFC does is For The City.
That's all for now folks. Next stop: Citi Field on Wednesday night. See you there.
2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
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