Well, that was ugly.
On Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium, Patrick Mullins struck against his former team and Bill Hamid was stout in goal as hosts DC United posted a dominating 3-1 victory.
Trailing by three, a 72nd minute penalty conversion by David Villa was only the smallest of consolations.
The win makes it four straight on the trot for the Black and Red. For NYCFC, who were incoherent and lifeless on the day, it was an opportunity missed— with third-place Toronto FC drawing Montreal, a win would have clinched a first-round playoff bye.
As it stands, NYCFC still sit second behind the New York Red Bulls, and can secure the bye outright with a win or draw at next weekend’s regular season finale at Yankee Stadium against Columbus. If the good guys lose, Toronto could snag the second spot with a Decision Day win over Chicago.
A sense of hapless dismay set in just before the half hour, as former Blues forward Mullins finished off a lethal bit of work from Lloyd Sam, who generally terrorizes New York City if given half a chance.
Just four minutes later, Bobby Boswell headed home a corner from Sam — Mama, there go that man again — and it fairly felt that the floodgates were opening.
Dreadfully skittish play at the back served to doom the visitors. Josh Saunders was out of his skull between the sticks, and the center back pairing of Frederic Brillant and Jefferson Mena brought sharpened toothbrushes to a gun fight. The trio were horrific with the ball at their feet, as Patrick Vieira’s deliberate buildup plan — the City way! — misfired and misfired as the misery self-multiplied.
And right before what would have been a merciful halftime whistle, the usually tranquil Andoni Iraola joined the miscue parade.
It was all of a piece that said nobody with a blue shirt had his head in the game. Blame it on what you will: two full weeks off from league play, even longer than that away from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, a bad breakfast, Trump, Hillary, Mercury in retrograde. It doesn’t matter. Something was way, way off on the day.
The good news, of course, is that Toronto couldn’t pull out a win, keeping NYCFC in a fine position known as second place.
Think about how you felt about this team a year ago.
"We are where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season"— New York City FC (@NYCFC) October 16, 2016
Head Coach @OfficialVieira
There’s so much left to play for. The very fact that this 2016 campaign won’t end with next weekend’s regular season bookend is, by itself, a wonderful thing. But contenders will themselves into peaking at exactly the right time.
We’ll find out in the coming weeks if the sophomore edition New York City FC really has the stuff.
See you on Sunday.