They call it decision day in Major League Soccer and the final regular season games on Sunday determined who would go home or continue a run for the championship. NYCFC is one of those teams headed to the Eastern Conference semifinals after finishing their regular season with a 4-1 win over Columbus Crew SC at Yankee Stadium.
And for their fans, players and the coach Patrick Vieira it was music to their ears. This was a season of adversity dealing with having the right nucleus on the field, and at times a postseason was very much in doubt.
But the changes were made that included five roster moves made by Vieira after a 3-1 loss to D.C. United last Sunday. Decision day went his way and Sunday November 6th NYCFC will host a Eastern Conference semifinal game in the Bronx by virtue of locking up second place.
So there was Vieira on the turf at Yankee Stadium after his team made it official. This was a coach who was proud and had every right to be. He took the hand held microphone and addressed many of the 30,364 loyal fans.
“We are not finished yet,” he said. “And we would have not achieved this without your support. We appreciate your support but it’s not over yet. With your support we can achieve a lot.”
But this was indeed an accomplishment for now. The coach always knew from the first few games of the season that the right chemistry would propel his team to move on in November. It is a unique and unusual playoff format, and if they and Toronto won their game, there would have been a knockout elimination game Wednesday night.
Regardless, the New York City FC fan base is ready. They have grown in strength and will wait and be prepared for a semifinal game in two weeks, and for a team that is still finding a base among New York City sports teams this was an accomplishment.
And don’t have any doubts about the fans and how these NYCFC players appreciate their loyal support.
“The fans were incredible,” said 20-year old rookie Jack Harrison who scored what proved to be the go ahead goal at the time that made it a 2-1 game with a left footed shot from centre of the box to the top left corner.
The assist came from a fan favorite, Frank Lampard, the veteran who has achieved more than one championship in his career. Moments later Khiry Shelton, who was shuffled in and out of the lineup to get that chemistry right, right footed a shot from the centre that went left and into the net for another goal.
“Our goal into the game was achieve the win and finish in second place,” Harrison said. “We keep trying to work hard and improve and stay focused for the playoffs. Incredible fans, the support and nice to see the attendance grow. Hope we give them more going into the playoffs.”
Those fans came again to see David Villa. A premiere player in the league, he scored the final goal with extra minutes on the clock and it was appropriate. Villa also scored the first home goal of the season back in March when NYCFC and Vieira were trying to figure out the proper chemistry and the last one was his 23rd of the season.
He smiled and waved. It was his moment when Viera completed his victory speech to the fans. “Thank you,” he said. “We will come back here in Yankee Stadium. The job is not done. Amazing job by you all.”
It was an eight-match home winning streak that definitely gives this team momentum in the Bronx. They know the job is not done, but this was a significant step forward when considering the adversity of having that right chemistry on the field.
Steven Mendoza returned from an injury and scored the first goal that was assisted by Villa. Vieira pushed the right buttons using him on the right side of a three-man front line.
“Second year as a pro having so many people behind our club, when we’re down it means the world,” said Shelton. Now it is a question about this momentum as there is that long layoff before the semifinal match with a team to be determined.
Vieira said the season ended on this high note. There is no intention to go away from the game plan and the focus will be there. And who is to say that NYCFC will lose that momentum after the way they finished?
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