Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the playoffs. It feels really good to say that, and we're glad to have you along for the ride.
Yes, Jim. Playoffs. Playoffs!
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW: 2017 MLS Playoffs
Now that it's time for the knockout rounds, the focus is on the ultimate prize: MLS Cup.
Rodney Wallace is focused, and after helping Costa Rica qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he talked to CONCACAF's official website about what an MLS Cup title would mean for him.
"It would basically seal out an amazing year and another highlight of my career and another goal that is reached," remarked Wallace. "For me, it's important for my family as well. Winning an MLS Cup for this club is huge.
"You come back from a trip like that with a lot of experience, with a lot of knowledge," he commented. "It's important to take away from those games that got us to qualify. It's important to bring some of that energy."
READ: 2017: NYCFC's Five Key Games
Elsewhere, Hudson River Blue speculates that the MLS Cup Playoffs could be a formative period for young homegrown signing James Sands.
"Enter James Sands. He is returning from the U-17 World Cup after the United States lost to a very strong England squad," writes HRB.
"He probably won’t start in the playoffs, but he may see some time off the bench. Depending on the matchup, adding Sands to the lineup could be very beneficial. He could help shut down the high-flying attacks of both Atlanta and Toronto."
As the first Homegrown signing in NYCFC history, there's no doubt it would be a huge moment for Sands to break through in the playoffs after a very strong U-17 World Cup in which he helped the Americans notch three shutouts.
Now that he's back, he'll have an extra week to get back up to speed with the squad thanks to NYCFC's success in clinching a first-round playoff bye. Michael Lewis described the feelings at Citi Field after City clinched over at Newsday.
"The only thing that mattered to the MLS team was if it could secure second place in the Eastern Conference and the resulting bye from the midweek knockout round of the playoffs," he writes.
"City finally was able to breathe easy Sunday and now has eight days to rest and plan after playing Columbus Crew SC to a 2-2 draw before 20,113 at Citi Field."
Lewis also got ahold of Sean Johnson after the match, who told him this: “There’s a hunger in the group. There’s a bite to us now. Everything’s here to play for."
PLAYOFFS: Who Could We Face?
Johnson wasn't the only NYCFC player who felt the mood change as soon as the final whistle blew. Empire of Soccer talked to Alexander Callens, City's very own Ironman, who told them what it meant to accomplish this goal.
"When the final whistle sounded Sunday evening, it ended the regular season but signaled Alex Callens' arrival into an exclusive club within Major League Soccer," writes EoS' Christian Araos.
"Callens became the seventh player to play all 3,060 minutes of a 34-game regular season with the conclusion of New York City FC‘s 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew.
“'It was a crazy game but for me I’m proud,' Callens said. 'The team kept fighting, we weren’t happy with just a draw, we never lowered our arms and we kept working until the end. Thankfully, we finished second and we deserved it.'
"With Callens in the lineup, City conceded 14 fewer goals this season while finishing second over all in the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings. He scored twice this season including the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Union on June 3. That win was one of 16 for NYCFC this season and the team needed each of them to secure second place."