The Blues must get another key win Saturday night against another team fighting for the playoffs in the San Jose Earthquakes.
Going into the match just about everyone knew, or thought that they knew, that NYCFC was going to see whatever remained of their playoff hopes get diminished away by the Reds. However, Frank Lampard’s first goal and Patrick Mullins’ shocking header on a corner gave NYCFC new life going into the final five matches of the season.
With one crucial match down, another comes on Saturday night in the Bronx when the San Jose Earthquakes (11-11-7; 40 pts) make their first and only trip to Yankee Stadium (7 p.m. ET, YES).
“It was very important to get back on the winning track,” Lampard said, “and it’s important again on Saturday.”
NYCFC (8-14-7; 31 points) find themselves just two points shy of tying Montreal for the sixth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference table and are just a point shy of tying Orlando City for seventh. Although the playoffs are once again in clear sight for the Blues, they’ll still need help to cross the red line. To make the jump into the top-six, the Blues need both the Impact and Orlando City to lose to New England and Chicago, respectively, for them to sneak in the playoff picture.
New York City looked like the club that went on a four-match undefeated streak earlier this summer, playing a lot more aggressively and creating numerous chances on goal. Despite playing on just three days rest, both Lampard and Andrea Pirlo played what could’ve been their best matches since arriving in the Big Apple.
Pirlo had the key assists on both Lampard’s and Mullins’ goals, earning Man of the Match honors.
“The ball was on the money and as a forward you want to put yourself in good positions,” Mullins said about his positioning on his goal in the second half. “Once you’re there I thought I had good strength, good acceleration in the air and the final product of the finish that’s what made it into a great goal.”
Pirlo hit Mullins perfectly inside the six-yard box on an NYCFC corner in the 77th minute – a ball that Mullins headed into the top corner of the net perfectly. It was NYCFC’s first goal on a corner-kick this season. He was also instrumental on Lampard’s goal in the 20th minute, placing a perfect ball just over RJ Allen inside Toronto’s 18-yard box. Allen kicked the ball back to Lampard for the opening goal.
“I think Andrea is a natural born competitor and doesn’t take to losing too well,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “I think he’s been in many situations like this before where it requires a massive effort. I think in the last two games he’s worked extremely hard and played quite well.”
“I think we had a very good result,” Pirlo said through a translator. “We played well together. It was a good result.”
The Blues will need another good performance against San Jose if they’re going to continue to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The Quakes played to a 1-1 draw against Montreal on Wednesday night – a match that also helped NYCFC’s playoff hopes – and, like the Blues will be coming off of a two-day rest going into Saturday night’s match. The difference, however, is the Quakes are flying across the country on a short rest, similar to Toronto’s situation which NYCFC took advantage of Wednesday night.
“I think they got a little frustrated and a little tired toward the end of the game and they were getting a little desperate on their shooting,” goalkeeper Josh Saunders explained.
The Quakes are currently seventh in the Western Conference, just a point behind Portland for the sixth and final playoff seed. Despite being in a similar fight to sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed like NYCFC, San Jose has struggled as of late, earning just two points in the last three matches after coming off of a four-match win streak, their longest of the season.
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