Patrick Vieira must devise a game plan that will somehow get his team to score three times vs. Columbus Sunday. (Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — New York City FC is tasked what sounds like an impossible challenge in its second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals at Yankee Stadium Sunday.
City must score three goals and hold the Columbus Crew SC, which rolled to a 4-1 rout in the first leg Tuesday night, to none. If the Crew scores, then NYCFC must score even more, which is unlikely, considering its goal-scoring woes over the past two-plus months.
“We’re going to try,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “It will be important for us to analyze the game tonight and try to come with a plan that will allow us to create chances and try not to concede.
“We’re going to give ourselves a good chance. Every time that we play them we have the opportunity to score goals. Not just one, but a few goals.”
The problem is that NYCFC’s attack, even with David Villa, has been sputtering, finding the net but 10 times in its 10 most recent matches since a 1-1 draw with the Red Bulls Aug. 25, including Tuesday’s encounter at MAPFRE Stadium. City has scored more than one goal only once during that span, in the 2-2 tie with Columbus at Citi Field Oct. 22.
“What will be important for us is we have to take our chances,” Vieira said. “We have to improve our collective game around the box. I think that was a huge difference between the two teams tonight. And they played well together in the last 50 yards and we didn’t. We paid the price heavily tonight.”
Still, NYCFC players won’t give up, as long as they will have a mathematical chance of winning the series, however slim.
“It is what it is. That’s the situation we’re in now,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “Going three down at that point is extremely difficult. We’ve shown in the past that we can score goals. It’s a matter of getting our mindset right and if we can come out and win 3-0 at home. Then that puts us through so we just need to regroup and refocus.”
Johnson felt it can be done.
“There’s no hill big enough that we can’t climb,” he said. We’ve got the guys, we have a talented group. I think we’re mentally strong so we’ll get back to it and come Sunday, we’ll come out guns blazing.”
Forward Jack Harrison said it will a matter of looking back at what went wrong and looking forward to the 5 p.m. game at the stadium Sunday.
“I think we try and stick to our game plan and definitely look over what we could have done better,” he said. “We are obviously going to have to review it and work on that for the week and hopefully come Sunday we are more prepared. ”
Vieira will have to replace center back Alexander Callens, who was red carded for elbowing Justin Meram in the second half. Callens, who played every minute of the regular season, will be suspended for that match.
“At least he will have some rest now,” Vieira said. “Ben Sweat can play as a left-central back. Ethan White can play center back as well. So we have a few options that we will think about through the week.”