Mancuso: NYCFC Now Needs A Second Leg

Other sports a loss in the playoffs and you go home but it works different in the MLS. Though NYCFC lost 1-0 Sunday night to Atlanta at Yankees Stadium, in the first leg of the eastern semifinals, they don’t go home and prepare for next season.

There is the return leg of this playoff format that takes place next Sunday in Atlanta. That one goal on the road  does put the United in good position. NYCFC needs to score two or more goals and win next Sunday, and if they do it’s a trip to the eastern finals.

It works that way in the MLS, a playoff system that compiles goals as the determining factor. NYCFC is facing the reality this could have been worse. One goal was the difference Sunday night in the Bronx and now they need two more in Atlanta.

It had nothing to do with lack of effort. These two teams played to 1-1 draws twice during the season, so there was familiarity.  Aggression from both sides, but NFCFC failed to get the right targets after consecutive wins over Philadelphia at home that included the knockout round Wednesday night that got them to the semifinals.

 New York City FC midfielder Ismael Tajouri (29) and Atlanta United midfielder Eric Remedi (11) fight for the ball during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“We don’t need to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-1-no,no we need to win,” NYCFC coach Domenec Torrent said, “If we win at least 1-0, it’s extra time, if you score 2, you are in. It’s as simple as that. We need to improve , absolutely. We need to improve for the next game because they have quality and the first half we didn’t play well because we didn’t have the connection between the central midfielders and the strikers .”

New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) warms up before a game against Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

But they defended well and one goal was the difference. The advantage of this MLS playoff format provides a week to make the adjustments. NYCFC is confident they will score more than three goals they have combined in their previous matches against Atlanta.

One goal will not be sufficient. They need two or more.

“ We know we can score goals there so yeah, I’m not worried,” Alexander Ring said. The midfielder gave Atlanta credit. The adjustment in the second leg is spread out more in the first half which overall reflected in the outcome.

 Atlanta United midfielder Eric Remedi (11) scores a goal on New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson (1) during the first half at Yankee Stadium.   Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Again, there is that advantage to this MLS playoff format. There is time to assure more goals are scored in order to advance. To some this is a bizarre format but the players put into the format. They keep playing and NFCFC is a team that can score.

But this first leg did not go their way. Atlanta kept David Villa, the leading scorer, from getting his shots and Sean Johnson let one get loose through the net.

 New York City FC forward David Villa (7) attempts dribbles past Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re not looking into into our struggles in the past leading up to this next game in Atlanta,” Johnson said. “So we’re just going to treat it like a final.”

NYCFC is the number 3 seed in these playoffs. They were outplayed in that first half and Johnson said, Atlanta did a good job at pressing by setting up and stopping how they wanted to play.

However, next Sunday there is no time to adjust. They have to attack and find that way to score two or more goals. If not soccer is done in the Bronx til next March and all they have to do is listen to their coach.

“We have chances to win in Atlanta, why not,” Torrent said. “They have a good team but New York City as well. Our intention is to go to Atlanta to win the game because we need to win.”

The intention: Of course is score two or more goals.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso


About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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