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Playoff hopes fade as lifeless NYCFC lose in DC

NYCFC had a great opportunity to solidify their playoff chances, but everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

It's not looking good |

New York City FC had a great opportunity to get a result on the road and solidify their playoff chances against DC United.

Unfortunately, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. NYCFC suffered a 2-0 defeat to DC United at Audi Field and several other Eastern Conference teams picked up important points and pushed New York City down the table to 13th place.

The issue defending on set pieces led to yet another goal, and the attack was as lifeless as could be. New York created scoring chances, but were unable to beat DC goalkeeper Alex Bono. Talles Magno thrived on the left-wing again and showed flashes of life but could not convert any of his opportunities. NYCFC had the momentum to begin the second half, but a DC United counter-attack and poor defense sealed the game in the 62nd minute.

New York are technically not mathematically out of the playoffs, but many results will need to go their way on and before Decision Day if they want to continue their playoff streak. It’s fair to say that many people have lost hope in the possibility of postseason soccer for NYCFC.

Game Stats 
NYCFC: 19 shots, 5 shots on target, 53% possession, 408 passes, 82% pass accuracy, 11 fouls 

DC United: 14 shots, 6 shot on target, 47% possession, 372 passes, 79% pass accuracy, 18 fouls 

Still can’t defend set pieces

Defending set pieces has been a reoccurring problem all season for New York. Conceding goals from free kicks or corners has cost the team many points and big results, especially on the road. Once again, NYCFC conceded a set piece goal again tonight. DC United did their homework and punished NYCFC on a set piece.

DC opened the scoring right before halftime from a free kick. Eric Davis swung the ball into the box to Steve Birnbaum, who was left unmarked and hit the post with his header attempt. The ball then bounced to Mateusz Klich, who tapped in the rebound. Klich was also left unmarked and had no trouble getting to the rebound. It is concerning that the likes of Thiago Martins and Birk Risa were not marking anyone.

The goal was well-deserved for DC, as they scored two goals prior that were disallowed for offsides. New York’s defending was questionable throughout the whole first half, and they were bound to get punished eventually.

Poor road form continues

Playing on the road is always tough in the MLS, but good teams find a way to win. NYCFC has one of the worst away records in the league with one win in 17 games. The team scored also only scored 12 goals, which is one of the lowest in the league only behind Toronto FC and CF Montréal. If you can’t win crucial matches away from home, you will never make the playoffs.

Following the game, head coach Nick Cushing spoke on NYCFC’s struggles on the road and summed it up perfectly.

Cushing is right about this. New York could and should be in a much better position than they find themselves in. The results against Columbus, Atlanta, and Miami were the result of a mixture of reoccurring problems, including poor finishing and troubles defending set pieces. NYCFC will need to iron these issues out come 2024.

Down, but not out yet

Despite pretty much every result going against New York, they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet. They need a whole lot of luck and hope, but the season is not over.

First and most importantly, NYCFC needs to win against the Chicago Fire on Decision Day at Citi Field. This result is not impossible, as New York owns a dominant head-to-head record over the Fire. The New Jersey Red Bulls need to lose against Nashville SC. The Red Bulls are coming into that game off the back of two wins against FC Cincinnati and Toronto FC. The last and least likely factor is that Charlotte FC must only pick up a maximum of two points in their two games against Inter Miami CF. With Inter Miami now eliminated from the playoffs, the team may be more vulnerable and easier to beat.

Ultimately, it will all go down to Decision Day to see whether or not NYCFC has their worst season since 2015.


  • DC United, Mateusz Klich, 45′
  • DC United, Chris Durkin, 62′


  • NYCFC, Kevin O’Toole, yellow card, foul 75′
  • NYCFC, Andrés Perea, yellow card, foul 90+6′
  • DC United, Steve Birnbaum, yellow card, foul 45+1′
  • DC United, Russell Canouse, yellow card, handball 67′
  • DC United, Mateusz Klich, yellow card, time-wasting 90+2′


  • 19,215


  • Referee: Fotis Bazakos
  • Assistant referees: Adam Garner, Felisha Mariscal
  • Fourth official: Marcos de Oliveira
  • VAR: Younes Marrakchi
  • Assistant VAR: Rene Parra