(David Villa and Alexander Ring celebrate – @NYCFC)
New York City Football Club beat the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium to clinch third place in the Eastern Conference and home field in the first round of the MLS playoffs.
NYCFC finished with a record of 16-8-10, with 56 points, and they will face Philadelphia, who finished in sixth with a record of 15-5-14, with 50 points, on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
This is a one-game playoff for the right to play either the top-seeded Red Bulls or second-seed Atlanta.
It didn’t take long for NYCFC to get on the board, as Maxime Chanot headed home a Maxi Moralez corner kick in the eighth minute to make it 1-0.
This was Chanot’s first goal of the season and second in his career against Philadelphia.
Just two minutes later, that lead doubled when Philadelphia’s Auston Trusty fired one into his own net.
Incredibly, in the 14th minute, Cory Burke got one back for Philadelphia when he deflected in a pass through the box.
NYCFC captain David Villa gave them a 3-1 edge in the 34th minute. it was his 14th goal of the season.
The play of the game came in the second half when NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson made an incredible penalty save, denying Fafa Picault from the spot with as he reached down to his right to make the big save.
“It was a reaction that I picked my side,” Johnson said of his save. “There is not much to it. I think he hit a decent penalty. I was able to get a decent read on it. On any given night it would have gone the other way. I got a good jump. Just tried to do my best turn the ball around. It was an important moment in the match. 3-2 would have been a lot of pressure on us for the rest of game.”
Villa said of NYCFC winning the season finale, “The feeling is good. We were talking about [it] before the game that we need the three points, we need to win the game – the result today was very favorable to us. The result gives us [a chance] to play the playoff at home. We were talking about before we need to [head into the playoffs] with a win and we did it. It’s about the good play we did today, and it’s something we need to show in the playoffs.”
NYCFC Head Coach Domenec Torrent said of how his team looks going to the playoffs, physically and mentally, “I think that the most important thing for the next game, because it’s a knockout game, is to play with confidence for the first half or at least the first 30 minutes, and with strong mentality – and with desire. In the MLS, if you have the desire to win, it’s not impossible. The desire is very important and the mentality.”
Torrent said of whether it is an advantage to play Philadelphia again, “You never know. It’s not easy to win two games in a row with the same team, but we have to be focused [on] our team. We have to recover. The best news for us is that we get to play again in Yankee Stadium. We are stronger here. We play with more confidence, and we have to review our game because I didn’t like 20 minutes in the second half when we decided to defend deep because we defend much better when we defend high.”
NYCFC had Yangel Herrera back in the starting lineup for the first time since May 25th.
Herrera said of how it felt to play the full game, “Yes, thank god I’m in good form. Today’s game showed that I’m 100% for the playoffs. It’s been a long journey in order to get back here well. At the beginning I thought I’d play 60-70 minutes but I felt fine on the field, and coach gave me the chance to continue on the field.”
Torrent said of how he thought Herrera looked, “The first idea was for him to play 60/70 minutes, but at the half, he told me he felt good and I said to him, when you are tired hand up and we change. I’m very happy for the team because he was able to play 90 minutes and that is good news for us.”