By Michael Lewis
New York City FC salvaged a rather horrendous late-season collapse with a 3-1 regular-season finale win over the Philadelphia Union at Yankee Stadium Sunday.
City’s gift to securing the home field in the MLS Cup Playoff knockout Wednesday night? Another game against Philly in the Bronx.
Over the past nine games, NYCFC hasn’t exactly been dazzling its opponents, winning but twice while recording a 2-4-3 mark.
A one-game performance isn’t exactly a giant sample that will tell the world whether City has gotten over its problems and headaches. While an improved Philly team is in the playoffs for only the third time in its nine-years existence, the team did finish in sixth place with a rather mediocre 15-14-5 mark in the Eastern Conference.
While Sunday’s result was encouraging — it certainly was boosted by the return of holding midfielder Yangel Herrera, who teamed well with Alex Ring at central midfield — is that enough for the team to beat the likes of the Red Bulls, Atlanta United and red-hot D.C. United in the later round?
Even if NYCFC gets past the Union again, its postseason run appears doomed because it may have gotten its act in order too late to generate the momentum needed for a successful playoff dance.
Since taking over for the departed Patrick Vieira in June, it seems many things have gone wrong for Domenec Torrent, from key players getting injured to lackluster road performances and results and the team, for some reason, not gelling under him.
Of course, all that would be forgotten if NYCFC goes deep in the playoffs and, heaven forbid reaches the Dec. 8 final.
If that did occur and the top four seeds in the Western Conference would be eliminated, City would host the championship match at the stadium.
Now, how embarrassing would that be for the league, that in the age of soccer-specific stadiums — at one time, I remember when the league required that an expansion needed to play in such a venue to obtain a franchise — that the league final would be held at a baseball park in December?
I shudder the thought because I still say Yankee Stadium lacks the proper atmosphere for a soccer game with the stands being so distant from the field. I realize many NYCFC supporters and apologists would beg to differ, but there’s nothing like being on top of the action (which is one of the reasons for soccer-specific stadiums) to feel part of the game. There have been games at Red Bull Arena where I had problems hearing myself think, the crowd was so loud. Yankee Stadium? We might have to wait until the spring and have Aaron Judge to hit a few out to get that feeling again.
But first things, first: Beating Philly in a match that should have the DOOP quite motivated to prove that Sunday’s result was an aberration.
Does that mean I have to drive to Philadelphia to take a bus to New York?
On Tuesday, I received this email from the Union, as did many Philly supporters:
Your Philadelphia Union will be heading up to Yankee Stadium to take on New York City FC tomorrow night at 7PM in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs! As a thank you for your support, we would like to provide transportation for any fans heading up to Yankee Stadium! You can purchase your game tickets via the Sons of Ben by clicking the link HERE, or you can contact New York City FC directly.
You need to RSVP by 7:00pm tonight in order to be included on the bus – so don’t waste any time booking your spot! To book your spot on the bus, please click the link below.
RESERVE YOUR SPOT TO NYC HERE
Your Philadelphia Union? Well, not exactly.
Hmmm, I guess for some reason or another I got on one of Philly’s mailing lists.
A dream scenario or two (well, for one writer)
Now, this would be the perfect scenario for yours truly in the MLS Cup playoffs:
Step One: The Supporters Shield champion Red Bulls running the table in the East with Chris Armas in charge.
Step Two: The Portland Timbers (coached by former Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese) and Real Salt Lake (directed by former Red Bulls boss Mike Petke) getting through the knockout round and Western Conference semifinals in one piece (yes, I know it’s a longshot, but I can dream, can’t I?) and meeting for the conference crown.
Dream Scenario No. 1 would be Armas and Savarese, two members of the Long Island Rough Riders’ 1995 U.S. Interregional Soccer League, clashing in the MLS Cup.
Dream Scenario No. 2 would Armas and Petke, two Red Bulls head coaches who guided their teams to Supporters Shields competing for the brass ring.
Yes, it is a longshot, but we can dream, can’t we?