It took 33 of 34 regular season games for New York City FC to be officially eliminated from the race for the MLS Supporters Shield and first place in the East.
What’s that feeling called? Like a headache, but with pictures?
It’s a special feeling. It’s that playoff feeling.
With a win Sunday afternoon against the Columbus Crew — the only Eastern Conference team NYCFC has never defeated — the good guys will secure a first-round playoff bye and at least one home playoff date.
For a second-year team, that’s playing with house money.
With a draw or a loss, the Blues would need some help from third-place Toronto, who sit just one point behind. Luckily, MLS is batty and uses total wins as its first tiebreaker rather than goal differential: if NYCFC loses and Toronto picks up a draw at the BMO against Chicago, the good guys would hold on to second place.
Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram, to be fair, tend to terrorize New York City cutting in from the wide areas. In both previous meetings this year, each made the score sheet. Whether through fits of individual brilliance or whipped-in crosses meant to abuse the Blues’ aerial haplessness, the Crew have never had much trouble scoring against NYCFC.
If you fancy yourself a trophy contender, you can’t limp into the postseason. Contenders peak at just the right time. Particularly in light of last weekend’s eminently flaccid performance away at DC United, New York City needs to beat Columbus, and they need to make it convincing.
“All season we’ve done a really good job of just focusing on the next match,” defensive stalwart Jason Hernandez told NYCFC.com this week. “There were times during the season we’d come off a disappointing result and we could have looked at the standings, the schedule, looked at all these things and all these factors. Instead of doing that, we just focused on the next match.”
A keen sense of focus is no longer optional. In just six weeks’ time, somebody’s captain is going to lift the MLS Cup.
It would be something poetic indeed if Patrick Vieira’s boys could dispose of the defending Eastern Conference champs as part of their postseason send-off.
KICKING OUT THE JAMS
- On 22 goals, David Villa is just one tally behind New Jersey’s Bradley Wright-Phillips in the race for the Golden Boot. New Jersey takes on Philadelphia Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.
- After missing the last three weeks, jedi ninja Frank Lampard is off the injury report and plans to be available for selection. Fullback Ronald Matarrita is also back to full fitness.
- According to one source, Portland’s Caleb Porter has bested Patrick Vieira for the title of Best Dressed Manager in the league. This is a sad day.