In the team’s final Regular Season game away from the five boroughs, the equation was simple: win and hope Red Bulls get something out of their game with Atlanta in New Jersey.
Those permutations coming to pass were good for that vaunted second seeding and a bye to the MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals.
NYCFC made a confident, if unspectacular, start, settling into the game with crisp passing and measured build-up play through the lines against a New England team strong at home this year.
The first meaningful opportunity of the game arrived on 13’ saw Sean Johnson stretched but the ‘keeper made a strong claim to his right.
NYC looked to be slowly taking control of the possession battle when a cruel blow came the road team’s way on 26’ in the shape of that red card shown to Harrison.
Jack certainly went in hard on Teal Bunbury but the winger will consider himself hard done by after his expulsion which reduced the Boys in Blue to ten men.
It was the second time Patrick Vieira’s men had been dealt an unfortunate first half red card in 2017 but could they repeat the heroics which took them to a ten-man victory over Chicago in the summer?
The early signs were good as the Blues dug in and neutralized the initial wave which followed New England’s boost and even managed to ask a few questions of their own at the other end in the 20 minutes which led to the interval of a goalless half.
Only a fine save from Krisztian Nemeth by Johnson in stoppage-time raised any significant alarm bells before Vieira had the chance to get his men into the locker room to recover and regroup.
Unfortunately, it was New England who started the second period on the front foot and the hosts grabbed the lead on 51′ courtesy of a curling strike from Fagundez at the top of the box.
Shelton was sent on to try and help launch a comeback with 30′ left on the clock but the action continued at the other end with Fagundez streaking clear on 63′ and only just firing over the top.
On 73′, Alexander Callens was close to equalizing after picking up a rebound from a corner but his shot cannoned off the back of Ben Sweat’s heels and away from danger.
This marked a period in the game when an increasingly attacking NYC side started committing more men forward leaving some gaps to exploit Johnson was there again on 77′ to make a sprawling save from Kei Kamara.
As we know, this team never gives up but, on this occasion, the grit and determination on show went unrewarded and NYCFC were picked off on the counter in stoppage-time by Fagundez to secure the points.
Shelton replied immediately in the move directly from the restart, heading over the goalkeeper into the empty net but it would only be a consolation.
That means the all-important second seed place is on the line on Decision Day.