1. The toughest month
In the long scheme of a season, it is difficult to conjecture how well or terribly a team will play. In 2019, many experts pegged New York City FC to finish towards the middle of the table in the Eastern Conference. Yet, they finished in first place. On the other hand, by looking at teams and how they played last year, and seeing the changes in the offseason, one can predict what may be the most difficult stretch of games for a team. And for New York City FC, the answer is the month of May.
In May, NYCFC will play the New England Revolution, Toronto FC, the Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles FC and the New York Red Bulls. For now, the Colorado Rapids will be the least difficult of those five, but as the team continues to rebuild, they cannot be merely overlooked.
The New England Revolution game will be an away game, and as seen in previous years, the team can be a difficult matchup for NYCFC. Since their inaugural season, NYCFC have managed just four wins, and only won once at New England. Particularly, the team lost four of six games at Gillette Stadium, so the record alone speaks volumes. This will be no walk in the park.
For fans, games against Toronto FC tend to bring bad memories. From always losing to the Reds in the playoffs, to the 4-0 thrashing at Toronto last season, there are plenty of unhappy moments. And while the game in May will be at home, the past always takes a mental toll on players, and of course the fans.
Furthermore, Toronto seems to be finding their feet again. They went undefeated in their final ten games and made it to the MLS Cup. Also, like NYCFC, the team has retained the majority of their squad, as well as opening up a third DP slot with the new contract for Michael Bradley. So not only do the Pigeons have to perform well; they must overcome the possible nagging thought that they might be brutally embarrassed on the pitch again.
After the games against Toronto and Colorado, the Pigeons must take the exhausting trip to California, and face Los Angeles FC. Truthfully, not much is needed to be said. LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield and dominated the regular season. Also, like NYCFC and Toronto, there were few roster changes. Therefore, like last year, this will be a challenging and exciting matchup. But can NYCFC beat the Black and Gold in their own home? Only the 90 minutes on May 24th will reveal the answer.
Finally, the last game in May is back at home against the New York Red Bulls. The Hudson River Derby is always full of emotion from both players and fans, and the passion seen on the pitch is electric. While the Derby leaned more toward the Red Bulls in NYCFC’s first few seasons, recently the games have been more evenly spread out.
In 2018, each team won a game in the regular season, and then NYCFC managed to hold a tie after going down two players from red cards in the exhilarating final Hudson River Derby of the season. And then in 2019, both teams managed 2-1 wins at their home grounds. The recent record shows the games are more evenly matched. And in the case either team finds themselves struggling, the passion on both sides will lead to a thrilling and difficult match.
By looking at the records and the quality of the four of five teams New York City FC will face in May, there is no doubt the month will be a demanding stretch for the Pigeons.