New York City FC look to continue to build off of the momentum gained from an impressive comeback victory over D.C. United on Thursday as the Club hits the road for a pair of away matches.
The first stop on the cross-country trip will be in Ohio for a match against Columbus Crew SC.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday from MAPFRE Stadium (YES Network, WFAN, WADO).
“Thursday’s match was really big,” defender RJ Allen said. “We got the three points and we need to continue to move up the table. More importantly, it was a good morale boost and confidence builder after the past few games before that. We’re not where we want to be just yet, though. There’s still work to be done. These next couple games are even more important.”
New York City FC (7-11-6; 27 points) are coming off one of the most complete performances of their inaugural season in Major League Soccer. Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Club rallied for three goals in the second half to come away with a 3-1 win over Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Midfielder Kwadwo Poku had one goal and one assist in his fourth start of the season, while midfielder Andrea Pirlo registered his first assist with the Club. Captain David Villa scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season as he remains in the hunt for the MLS Golden Boot.
“It’s obviously a big result,” assistant coach Miles Joseph said. “It allows the team to feel that all the work they’ve been putting in is justified. There are a lot of new players who came in midway through the year and it’s taken time for everybody to get used to each other and get on the same page.
“The work and effort has remained the same. It’s nice to see the work we’ve put in is showing in matches.”
Wednesday’s match is dually important, not only because New York City FC sit one point away from the playoff line, but the match is against an Eastern Conference team above the Club in the standings.
|N.Y. Red Bulls||39||11-6-6|
|Orlando City SC||28||7-11-7|
|New York City FC||27||7-11-6|
Columbus (9-8-7; 34 points) is third in the conference following a 2-1 win at Colorado on August 8. The Crew are 3-1-1 in their last five matches.
“They’re a very good team,” Joseph said. “They deserve to be where they are in the standings. They work hard and have dangerous players. We have our hands full going on the road into Columbus. It’s an exciting and big challenge for our group.”
Columbus is led by MLS’ leading goal scorer Kei Kamara. The Sierra Leone striker has 17 goals in 24 appearances (23 starts) this season in his second stint with the Club.
While Kamara may garner the headlines, it certainly isn’t a one-man act in Columbus. Ethan Finlay has seven goals and a team-leading 12 assists. Federico Higuain has six goals and five assists. Kamara is also a provider, dishing out five assists, too.
“We need to limit his time and space on the ball,” Allen said of defending Kamara. “We have to always have someone up tight on him and keep his back to the goal. We were very well organized when we played Toronto the first time and limited (Sebastian) Giovinco. All of our lines were very close and tight. We need to limit space on Kamara and guys like Finlay, too.
“We need to stay close to our midfield and limit their time on the ball.”
Motivation to obtain all three points at Columbus – and another three in Los Angeles against the Western Conference-leading Galaxy on Sunday – is a given at this point.
New York City FC are eighth in the conference and have 10 matches left to earn enough points to break into the top 6 and qualify for the MLS playoffs. Matches are steadily decreasing while their importance is increasing exponentially.
“I think it’s great that we’re in the race for a playoff spot,” Joseph said. “It’s been a process over the whole year. To be in this position and getting the players we’ve gotten and the players we already had to mesh together and make a push for a playoff spot is huge. It’s exciting and I think that’s motivation in itself for the players.
“You don’t need to tell them anything other than, 'We’re right here on the line for the playoffs and if we do the right things, we’ll be in the playoffs.' And that will be a really great accomplishment for the Club.”