New York City FC will face Toronto FC in the club’s first-ever MLS playoff game Sunday at BMO Field in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
As the No. 2 seed, NYCFC earned a bye into the conference semifinals and will host the second leg at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 6.
The winner of the aggregate series will face either the top-seeded New York Red Bulls or No. 5 Montreal Impact in the two-legged Eastern Conference finals.
Even though it’s a new experience for NYCFC, coach Patrick Vieira said the work on the training ground is the same as it was throughout the season.
“Nothing will be different. We’re going to prepare the week the same way, we’re going to talk about the team the same way we’re talking about all the other teams so far,” Vieira said. “It will be excitement for the players, for the football club because it’s new for everyone at the football club, the people working in the office, the players so we have to enjoy the moment.”
NYCFC secured the second seed on the last day of the regular season, defeating Columbus Crew SC, 4-1, at Yankee Stadium last Sunday. Steven Mendoza, Jack Harrison, Khiry Shelton and David Villa struck for NYCFC, which snapped a 1-all draw with three goals in the final quarter hour.
Toronto FC finished third in the Eastern Conference standings and defeated No. 6 Philadelphia Union, 3-1, in a Knockout Round match at BMO Field Wednesday night. Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Jozy Altidore struck as TFC celebrated a first-ever playoff win.
“Toronto, we know them,” Vieira said. “When you look at Giovinco, he’s one of the best players in the league.”
Both teams have tremendous star power and individual talent and the result has been a whopping 18 total goals in five all-time meetings.
NYCFC has had the edge with two wins and three draws in those matches. Both regular season encounters this year have resulted in draws, 2-2 at Yankee Stadium on March 13 with Villa netting a first-half brace, and 1-1 at BMO Field on May 18.
A year ago, Villa scored both goals in a 2-0 win in Toronto and also struck for a brace in a wild 4-4 draw at Yankee Stadium in a match that saw a record four penalty kicks awarded.
Frank Lampard scored his first MLS goal in a 2-0 win over TFC in the final meeting between the two last season.
“We are excited, we are good, we are happy,” Villa said. “We work every day from the first day in Florida to be here. I think we deserved it. Now, we are good. Patrick said minutes ago without Connor [Brandt] and Shannon [Gomez] for long injuries, every player is fit. We have good momentum and we are good to be fighting for the playoffs.”