We can try to marginalize it all we want: New York City FC conceding an away goal to Atlanta United last weekend was bad, especially without scoring one of their own. And today, it was revealed just how bad that was.
FiveThirtyEight disclosed their calculations for the remainder of the MLS Cup Playoffs and each team’s chances at advancing to the next round and beyond. As it stands right now, NYCFC has the worst odds out of all remaining teams; they are currently given a 16% chance at advancing past Atlanta to the Eastern Conference Finals and an even worse chance — 8% to be specific — at getting past Columbus Crew SC or the New York Red Bulls to the MLS Cup Final.
It’s hard to blame FiveThirtyEight for calculating it as such. The proof is in past performances.
In their first matchup this season, NYCFC and Atlanta played to a 2-2 draw in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But, to be completely honest, City were fortunate to escape A-Town with a point on that day. Down 1-0, NYCFC equalized with a penalty. Later in the game, an Atlanta goal was called back for “goalkeeper interference” — a soft call in my opinion — before ultimately scoring a second one anyway. The Blues equalized again, but it was the result of pure brilliance on the part of Alexander Ring.
The odds of someone scoring a goal like that aren’t particularly high. The odds of them scoring like that a second time is even less likely. I’m not saying that NYCFC must score goals in this manner. But in order to beat a team as good as Atlanta, you need brilliance of this magnitude.
The second match — a 1-1 draw at Yankee Stadium — saw the Blues dominate almost every facet of the game. But a momentary defensive lapse allowed Josef Martinez to score, leaving NYCFC to rely on late-game heroics to take a point. But this game shouldn’t be looked to as an example of how we can beat the Five Stripes; That game was played at Yankee Stadium, a place where we’ve already lost to the Five Stripes in this two-leg series.
Trust me, I’m not trying to be this negative when talking about the team and their chances. But it’s best we stay realistic about our future in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Unless NYCFC is willing and able to tap into the deepest parts of their beings and really hand it to Atlanta, the offseason will start early for us this year.