For Khiry Shelton, the objective in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals is clear. The two-goal deficit? Difficult, but not daunting.
“We’re going to look at film, we’re going to hit it hard,” Shelton said. “We know what we can do and how we can damage teams. It’s just about putting the right pieces in place and just attacking and being aggressive.”
Shelton spent the first part of the first leg at BMO Field on the bench, observing the tense action from the sideline.
But with 12 minutes to play in a scoreless game, the pacy winger was asked by coach Patrick Vieira to come in and make a difference. It’s a role the second overall pick of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft has relished this season.
But this time, Shelton was asked to do his damage at forward when he came on for NYCFC captain David Villa.
“I worked on it at training and I’ve played up top throughout my career so yeah it was a little surprising taking David off,” Shelton said. “But at the same time he gave me an objective and that’s what I was told to do, to try and change the game a bit.”
And though Shelton, who has four goals and nine assists this season, didn’t find the back of the net, he did take some mental notes about Toronto FC’s backline that could help this Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
“I think their back three are solid, some very good players,” Shelton said. “I saw some stuff when I got on the pitch I feel I can help hurt them in a way. It’s just about going back, looking at film and breaking them down.”
The opening leg was Shelton’s first appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs and he noticed how much more physical the play is than during the regular season.
Again, the student took notes and is all the wiser for the ever-important second leg.
“We know both teams want to win,” Shelton said. “We know its going to get scrappy at times and we have to mentally prepare ourselves not to think about that and to just worry about what we have to do on the pitch.”