New York City FC: Consistency will be key as they head to MLS playoffs

New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

New York City FC won their final regular-season game and now look to the playoffs

On Sunday, New York City FC played in their final game of the regular season against the Chicago Fire FC.  While Chicago had to win in order to guarantee playoffs, NYCFC had to win in order to have a chance of fourth place, for a Columbus Crew loss would guarantee that.

No matter the outcome, NYCFC still wanted to continue their winning momentum.  Fortunately, they were able to do so after a hectic match.  Six of the seven goals were scored in the first half, and the game finished with the Pigeons winning 4-3.  The team also finished the year in fifth place, since Columbus won.

Defensive mistakes and miscommunication between Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens in the first half led to their opposition’s goals.  For a team that struggled at the beginning of the year, NYCFC has been strong defensively since.  Yet, they made some costly mistakes in their last game and this one.  Auspiciously, they were much better in the second half, and defensive substitutions Sebastien Ibeagha and Gudmundur Thórarinsson helped in their winning aspirations.

Consistency will be key for New York City FC as they enter the MLS playoffs

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But that first half is a worrisome thought to think about; NYCFC has to go to Orlando and play Orlando City SC in their first playoff fixture.  Playing away is always challenging, and the Pigeons have only won twice at Orlando.  Not only do they have to continue their scoring when looking ahead, but they cannot make costly mistakes in the backline, particularly against a team like the Lions.

On the bright side, New York City FC continued to score against Chicago.  Yes, Chicago is a bottom of the table side, but as seen in the game, their drive to make the playoffs turned the match into an extremely competitive matchup.  Therefore, the four goals scored against the fire is tremendously impressive.

Even more impressive, all four goals were scored by different players: Callens, Gary Mackay-Steven, Jesús Medina, and Valentín Castellanos.  Mackay-Steven and Medina were extremely criticized for their lack of goals and performances throughout the season, so it is riveting to see they have found their form at the right time, and are scoring too.

Meanwhile, the use of Castellanos as the make-shift striker is starting to work.  Not only did the Argentine score again, but he scored the winning goal.  The Chicago Fire gave up the ball due to a misdirected pass.  The ball ended up going across their own box and right to Castellanos, who took the opportunity to score.  It might have been a bit of luck, but he was in the right place and right time.  Plus, he did not shoot the ball wide, and instead was able to finish.

Additionally, even when both teams were not scoring, it was a back and forth affair.  The match was extremely hectic and competitive, and both sides gave their all to get the win.  This was notable in the latter part of the first half, where five of the seven goals were scored in a period of eleven minutes.  So again, it was impressive that New York City FC was able to score the number of goals that they did and get the win.

Now, they just need to continue the consistency against Orlando City.  In both games against them this season, the Pigeons were only able to score a goal in each fixture.  Of course, in the 1-1 match in October, NYCFC did have multiple opportunities and had a strong performance overall.  So, it is possible to go down to Orlando and put up a fight.

However, the past is haunting, and the past is not friendly to the Pigeons.  Consequently, fans cannot help but be concerned about the MLS Cup Playoffs.  For starters, NYCFC does struggle in Orlando, and as mentioned, winning is a rare affair.  Then, there is their history in the playoffs.  NYCFC has struggled, often against Toronto FC, but they have yet to make it past the Conference Semifinals.

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Despite New York City FC finding their rhythm and winning games, the history and whether they can remain consistent is well on the minds of fans.  But if the team continues to play well, and score goals, then they have a chance to go farther in the playoffs this year. At the moment, they can celebrate the win against Chicago, but the work must be done.  Their adventure in the 2020 playoffs begins now.