(NYCFC at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon – Photo by Jason Schott)
New York City Football Club tied Columbus 2-2 on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field in the regular season finale.
The point from the tie was enough for NYCFC (57 points, 16-9-9) to hold onto second place in the eastern conference and earn a first-round bye.
NYCFC will open the playoffs on the road on October 30 or 31 and then host the second leg of the first round matchup at Yankee Stadium on November 5. It will be their first game at Yankee Stadium since September 9, as they had to move this one and another match on September 23 (to East Hartford) due to Yankees scheduling conflicts.
Columbus finished fifth, with 54 points, and a record of 16-6-12. They will face 4-seed Atlanta in the one-game play-in matchup. The third-seed Chicago Fire will face the Red Bulls in the other play-in game.
NYCFC will play either Chicago, Atlanta, or Columbus in the first round. If the Red Bulls advance, they could only play top-seeded Toronto.
It is possible NYCFC could face the Red Bulls for the first time in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Final.
In this one, the pitch at Citi Field was laid out from third base to right field, whereas Yankee Stadium goes from left field to first base.
Columbus got on the board first in the 11th minute when Ola Kamara got a long feed, sprung in past the NYCFC defense and buried it to make it 1-0.
Seven minutes later, in the 18th, NYCFC was given a corner kick, which was taken by Maxi Moralez.
Morales fired it into David Villa at the center of the box, and he jumped up past Columbus midfielder Mohammed Abu to tie it at 1.
In the 45th, Villa was right there when a long volley deflected off a Columbus defender. He corralled it and shot it from 30 yards out, just under the reach of Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen to make it 2-1 NYCFC. That would be the score at halftime.
The double gave Villa 22 goals on the season.
In the 58th minute, Columbus had a corner kick and it was Josh Williams who leapt up past NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and headed it in to tie the game at 2.
In the 78th minute, Federico Higuain, coming down the right side, got one by Johnson, but it missed the left post by inches.
Huguain took a corner kick in the 86th minute, and Johnson punched it away.
In the 90th minute, Villa lobbed a pass into the box to Jonathan Lewis, who missed it, and it went to the Columbus goalkeeper Steffen, who grabbed it, but tripped up Moralez, who was in pursuit.
Originally, there was no call, but it went to video review, which determined Steffen did reach for Moralez’s legs with both arms and knock him down.
NYCFC was awarded a penalty kick, which Villa took. He fired it left of center, and Steffen saved it, to the shock of everyone, including their fervent supporters who filled Citi Field’s lower bowl and gave it a college atmosphere.
Lewis would get a chance in the 93rd minute, as he came in and got off a quality shot that just missed the right post.
In the 94th minute, Columbus’ Adam Jahn got off a nice shot.
NYCFC would have one last chgance, as they were given a free kick after Higuain knocked down Alex Ring near the center line. The free kick went toward the box, and the Columbus defense deflected it away.