For the seventh straight season, New York City Football Club find themselves in the MLS Cup Playoffs. This season has had plenty of highs and some painful lows, but the table never lies, and this team is entering the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
While we finally know where we’ll be playing our first-round matchup, we don’t yet know who we’ll be playing to open our post-season efforts. But we do know the four teams we could be facing in the First Round: Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew, or Orlando SC.
Which of these four teams would you rather face come playoff time? I’ll go through all of the potential opponents here, then you can cast your vote down below on which team you want to take down in Harrison.
1. Inter Miami
David Beckham’s shiny pink toy, currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, which would mark their highest-ever finish in the Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami’s short history — if they can hold on in their last match of the season against Montreal.
The current table would pit them up against New Jersey Red Bulls in the First Round, but depending on their final result and score-lines elsewhere they could still meet NYCFC in the first round. Either way, they have a good chance of playing a game at Red Bull Arena.
Inter Miami are a team on fire right now, with four wins from their last four matches. Their front line is also an exciting one, with the in-form Argentinian legend, Gonzalo Higuaín, banging in goals of late, while also announcing his retirement from the game after this campaign. It doesn’t hurt that they have NYCFC-slayer Alejandro Pozuelo pulling the strings in the midfield.
But this is a team with zero playoff experience, and experience tends to pay dividends in this knockout competition. It makes this Miami side feels like somewhat of a wildcard going into the playoffs.
2. FC Cincinnati
If the playoffs started today, Cincinnati would be taking the field in Harrison to play NYCFC in the First Round. Cincinnati have yet to clinch, and could theoretically be knocked out of the postseason on Decision Day, but if they make it over the line this will be the Ohio-dwelling club’s very first playoff appearance in club history.
Cincinnati posted mostly disappointing campaigns since joining the league in 2019 expansion club, but don’t let their history fool you: The 2022 edition of Cincinnati is a very different team. They have 59 goals scored so far this season, which is good enough for third-best in the East — it even puts them above NYCFC.
The trio of attacking talent by way of Brandon Vasquez (17 goals, five assists), Brenner (15 goals, five assists), and Luciano Acosta (nine goals, 12 assists) have the ability to take over matches. But Cincinnati are a young club who are inexperienced in these types of high-pressure games, and they could be one misplaced Ronald Matarrita challenge away from crashing out — just like NYCFC did in 2019.
3. Columbus Crew
The second Ohio-based club on our list currently sit in the seventh spot of the Eastern Conference, putting them just inside the borderline of the post-season. The Crew play eighth-seed Orlando on Decision Day in what will be an intense affair to determine who will grab that last playoff spot. While it’s still possible for the Crew to miss the playoffs, it’s also still possible for them to meet NYCFC in the first round — they could still finish as high as fifth place depending on other results.
This topsy-survey set of potential outcomes for the Crew isn’t too dissimilar to their season itself. At their best, they can be a formidable opponent sporting a star-studded cast of Lucas Zelaryan, Cucho Hernández, and Darlington Nagbe. But at their worst, they have dropped some big points in some big moments — including choking on Wednesday night and giving up a 94th-minute equalizer to Charlotte that denied them sealing up a playoff spot right then and there. Let’s call them a mixed bag of an opponent for NYCFC.
Orlando are by far the most familiar potential opponent of NYCFC on this list. As expansion sisters, rivals, and the foe of many entertaining matchups through the years, the thought of NYCFC facing off against Orlando in the playoffs has a nice ring to it from the neutral point of view.
But at the moment, Orlando have some work to do if they want to be in these playoffs at all. Sitting below the postseason threshold, they need to at least draw Columbus on Decision Day to make the playoffs fate. But if they win and Cincinnati lose to DC United on Decision Day, they could find themselves once again making the trek up north to Harrison.
I would be remiss to not acknowledge what transpired the last time these two sides met in the playoffs, and the game finished with THAT penalty shootout. In an utterly ridiculous sequence of officiating events, Orlando was forced to put the goalie gloves on defender Rodrigo Schlegel to face the decisive PK — which he saved to eliminate NYCFC from the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
NYCFC’s 2021 MLS Cup victory put those memories in the rearview mirror for the club and their fans, but it’s still some food for thought: If these two clubs meet again in the playoffs this season it might be interesting, because it was a wild ride last time...
Which team do you want NYCFC to face in the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs?
This poll is closed