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EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Toronto FC

Let’s get set for the biggest Soccer Sunday in NYCFC history.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to bring back the boom-bap.

And that’s all.

Sunday’s showdown at BMO Field is a massive moment in New York’s soccering history, despite the game taking place in Toronto. This first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (7:00pm ET, FS1) features two of the most potent attacks in this modern era of Major League Soccer at loggerheads. You want the reigning MLS MVP? You got him. How about two World Cup winners managed by yet another World Cup winner? Too many European scoring titles and Best XIs and Champions League crowns to count?

You got it.

It’s yours.

Sunday’s semifinal opener will go a long way in telling us whose world it really is this year in the Eastern Conference. The Reds of Toronto have defended far more consistently than NYCFC throughout the year, but then again, they’ve never won this matchup in five tries. It’s not to say that New York City owns Toronto — both previous meetings this year were draws — but it’s surely true that the Blue team doesn’t fear these guys one bit.

It behooves Toronto to jump out ahead early and place maximal pressure on the dubious NYCFC back line. If Eirik Johansen starts again in goal for the visitors, he’ll be making his first-ever appearance on the road in MLS in what happens to be the most important game in team history. If Patrick Vieira opts for Josh Saunders, you’ve got a different set of problems on your hands. A rampant Sebastian Giovinco and a resurgent Jozy Altidore will be licking their chops either way. This is a source of real concern for the Borough Boys.

But if New York City can manage any kind of result at the BMO, they’ll be playing with house money when they make their return trip to Yankee Stadium next Sunday, November 6th. In the friendly confines of the Bronx, the good guys are unbeaten in eight straight, including six big wins.

In other words, you’re already feeling pretty good if you’re a fan of New York’s newest team.

Facts Only

  • Compared to last year, when he was known for empty touches and eminently rookie-ish judgment on and off the ball, Khiry Shelton has been a revelation, particularly in the back stretch of the season. He’s emerged as the aerial threat we’ve all wanted him to be, and boasts nine massive assists in 2016, which basically nobody saw coming.
  • Stiven Mendoza has also emerged at precisely the right time, and has officially made the decision as to whether NYCFC ought to try to buy him from Corinthians (or re-up on his loan deal) into a difficult one indeed.
  • Toronto hasn’t really gotten a good look at the “real” New York City squad this year: Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison were out with injuries when the teams first met in March, and the Blues were on short rest when they drew 1-1 at the BMO on May 18th.
  • NYCFC ought to love any chance to play a Canadian team: in twelve total games against Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, the good guys have only lost one single game.
  • C.R.E.A.M., get the money, win all the trophies and throttle the opposition until they submit unconditionally, y’all.