New York City FC has been talking about playoffs and staying on top while holding onto the top spot in the East. But if they’re going to be a legitimate playoff team, the run starts Saturday vs. the Rapids.
There are those who do, and those who talk. Last year, New York City FC did a lot of talking. Needing to win their final six matches last year for a shot at the sixth and final playoff spot, NYCFC won the first three in surprising fashion, before gloriously losing the final three including their disappointing 3-1 loss to New England in the regular season finale in the Bronx.
They apologized for the disappointing season, in Spanish and English, and then made significant moves during the winter to make their case of becoming a playoff team in Year Two – head coach Patrick Vieira, defender Ronald Matarrita, and rookie Jack Harrison to name a few.
Yet, despite falling 4-1 against the Red Bulls on Sunday, if NYCFC is going to start to solidify their playoff push and walk the walk that they have been talking about through the winter, and at points during the season, they’ll need to have a strong run through the latter part of this summer, starting with Saturday’s match against the surprising Colorado Rapids (3 p.m. ET, YES).
But a positive result against the Rapids isn’t the end-all. Of the four matches NYCFC plays in the month of August, three of them are against current non-playoff teams (San Jose, Columbus and Orlando). The only match against a playoff caliber side is their August 20th match against the L.A. Galaxy at Yankee Stadium, the only home match of the month.
Of their remaining schedule, from September onward, NYCFC take on a current playoff team just twice (at New England and vs. FC Dallas).
Yet they must start with a win against a Colorado Rapids team (10-2-8; 38 points) that caught everyone off guard, bolstering itself through the season by acquiring U.S. National Team midfielder Jermaine Jones in the early goings and goalkeeper Tim Howard during the summer transfer window.
The Rapids have been tremendous defensively, allowing a league-low 14 goals through the season so far. They’re currently riding a 15-match unbeaten streak that dates back to April 9th when they lost 1-0 at Real Salt Lake. However, the Rapids have earned draws in four of their last five matches coming into Saturday, two of those being scoreless draws.
“The game on Saturday will be really important for us because we want to be part of the top teams and this is why it is important for us to win the game,” Vieira said after Wednesday’s training session.
If Saturday’s match wasn’t much of a must-win situation enough, the Pigeons will be without captain David Villa and defenders RJ Allen, Frederico Bravo and Ethan White, who are all suspended for the match. Villa, Allen and Bravo are suspended due to yellow card accumulation, while White is suspended after picking up a red card late in Sunday’s loss in New Jersey.
“Of course it’s a big blow for us, but that will give opportunity to the other players to show that they deserve to play,” Vieira explained. “This is a message I’ve been sending since the beginning of the season.”
Without Villa, the Pigeons seemingly will rely on either, or both, Khiry Shelton and Steven Mendoza to fill the void up front with the rookie Harrison and Tommy McNamara.
Despite entering Saturday’s match coming off a loss, NYCFC still have some momentum behind them. They’ve yet to lose back-to-back matches since mid-late April and have won their last two matches that came off losses.
Also, NYCFC has seemed to start getting their act together at home, going 2-1-1 in their last four matches at Yankee Stadium. It’s a nearly complete turnaround after they struggled incredibly at home to start the season, waiting until April 30th to earn their first home victory of the year against the Montreal Impact, 3-2.
NYCFC may be coming off a loss, but they can still make a solid playoff run, especially with a fairly favorable schedule ahead. But if they’re going to prove to the supporters and everyone that they’re for real, they’ll have to rely on their depth to get them a needed three points Saturday against Colorado.
The supporters are tired of talk and tired of hoping. It’s time for these Pigeons to start making some noise.