Looking like a playoff team for the first time in a while in the second half of its 2-0 home win over the lowly Chicago Fire, New York City FC clinched a spot in the MLS postseason Wednesday night.
Alex Ring and David Villa scored goals four minutes apart early in the second half to boost City into its third consecutive playoff berth. Now, it will be up to City to secure, at the minimum, home-field at Yankee Stadium in the knockout round of the playoffs.
As it turned out, NYCFC became the third sports team to clinch a playoff berth in the past week, following in the footsteps of the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.
Third-place NYCFC (15-8-8, 53 points) put some room behind itself and fourth-place and idle Columbus Crew SC (13-9-8, 47), although City still trails the second-place Red Bulls (18-7-5, 59) with three games remaining in the regular season.
NYCFC had forged a 1-4-4 record in its previous nine games.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ring said. “We had a pretty dominant [game]. I think we took our chances.
“We were a lot more patient.”
The Fire (7-16-7, 28), 10th out of 11 teams in the conference, is out of the playoff picture.
Better known for his defensive capabilities as a holding midfielder, Ring was used in a more advanced position as a playmaker. He didn’t disappoint, making several pinpoint passes and striking for his second goal of the year to break the scoreless draw in the 47th minute.
“Of course, I enjoyed it,” Ring said of his new role. “I put one away today. I’ll play anwhere the coach wants me.”
Villa, the team captain who has been hampered by injuries this season and who missed two close-range attempts earlier in the contest, double the margin by slamming home a Maxi Moralez feed from the right side in the 51st minute.
“When he is on his game, he’s gold,” Ring said. “We have a better chance to win.”
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson recorded the clean sheet.