New York City FC’s second MLS Playoffs campaign begins on Tuesday in Ohio.
Columbus Crew SC stand in the way of a first-ever appearance in the Conference finals but where will the game be won and lost?
And so, here we go, into our second MLS Playoffs campaign.
There aren’t too many happy memories to pull upon from our first postseason but, as Jack Harrison said, NYCFC will surely be better equipped this time around by virtue of having had that experience in 2016.
All of the soundbites out of the camp have been positive, with bodies, minds, hearts, hands and feet all getting primed and turning focus towards MLS Cup.
To get there, we’ll take one game at a time, starting with the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Columbus – a place which does hold some happy recent memories for Patrick Vieira’s men….
City recorded their first-ever win in Ohio on their last visit, thanks to two goals from Harrison and a header on his first start from Yangel Herrera.
Coming from behind and winning without the ill David Villa has been taken by some fans as a turning point in the Regular Season as the boys shook off defeat to Orlando to pick up three points at one of the league’s toughest venues.
With away goals serving as the tie-breaker in two-legged MLS Playoffs matches, Vieira will know the value of getting on the scoresheet road meeting before welcoming Columbus to Yankee Stadium on November 5.
Road to Fitness
Little makes us prouder as a football club than when our players are called up to represent their nations.
However, the September international break proved to be a costly one as NYC lost a clutch of key contributors to injuries, filling up the treatment room and making it difficult to keep up the same consistency of results we’d enjoyed in the first six months of the season.
It’s taken some time for all of those afflicted players to get back fit and to rediscover their form but now it finally looks as though the way has cleared.
Maxime Chanot hasn’t played since the 2-2 draw with Toronto in July but has returned to training… will he be back at some stage of this Eastern Conference semifinal? We’ll know more when Injury Report is posted here on NYCFC.com on Monday afternoon.
By the time we take to the field on Tuesday evening, NYCFC will have had nine days free of games.
Not only should this mean that the Boys in Blue are box-fresh but it should also have given the team chance to fine tune their gameplan on the training field, especially over the weekend since Columbus came through the Knockout Round.
That epic game in Atlanta on turf which ran for 120 minutes plus penalties will surely have taken its toll on The Crew, potentially lending another small advantage to the team from the Big Apple.
The Other Guys
All that said, there’s no substitute for form and momentum and Columbus has both.
The Crew are unbeaten in 12 games after a strong finish to 2017 and we only have to look back to the 2-2 draw at Citi Field last weekend to see that this semifinal will be anything but straightforward.
Their off-field issues have been well-documented elsewhere and this narrative will be impossible to avoid going into the first leg on Tuesday night.
This will be seen by the Columbus fanbase as an opportunity to show up and create an incredible atmosphere to demonstrate why Major League Soccer should stay in Ohio – whether that’s channeled into a commanding performance or whether that pressure gets to them remains to be seen…
We’ve written it before every meeting with Columbus so far this season but it’s just as relevant as ever… when these teams meet, you should expect goals.
Vieira is always especially effusive in his praise for The Crew before City showdown with them, due to their attacking mindset and attractive style of play.
Set against City’s own attacking flair, it usually makes for entertaining, high-scoring encounters with an average of five goals per game being scored in games between Columbus and NYCFC at the MAPFRE Stadium.
GET INVOLVED: Who do you think will emerge victorious from the MLS Playoffs? Can NYCFC go all the way? Who will be the key man for the Boys in Blue over the two legs? Tweet us @NYCFC using the hashtag #MakeItHere.