NYCFC booed as chase of MLS playoff history just got harder
MLS history will have to be made the hard way.
Entering Sunday with just one loss in its previous 21 games at Yankee Stadium, third-seeded NYCFC stumbled at home when it mattered most, dropping the first leg match of the Eastern Conference semifinals, 1-0, to second-seeded Atlanta.
The United host the final leg of the series next Sunday, with NYCFC needing an upset in Atlanta to keep its season alive and reach its first-ever Eastern Conference final. NYCFC lost in the semifinals each of the past two years — losing the first leg each time — and is 4-9-4 away from home this season while the United are 11-2-4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We’ve played there before. We know we can score goals there. I’m not worried,” midfielder Alexander Ring said. “I’m looking forward to this. The playoffs is what you’ve been working for all year. I’m sure we’re gonna bring our ‘A’ game when we show up there.
“If you have a mental blockage in the playoffs because you’re playing away then you’re playing the wrong sport.”
The lone goal of the evening came on midfielder Eric Remedi’s first career MLS goal. Following a diving save by NYCFC’s Sean Johnson — on a Josef Martinez shot in the 37th minute— Remedi punched home the rebound, quieting the loud but largely empty stadium.
In the final minutes of the first half, the crowd was briefly convinced that NYCFC had leveled the score. But David Villa was whistled for a foul on a bicycle kick, long before the ball found the back of the net.
“Their set pieces were dangerous, and we have to be [better] on them,” Ring said. “I think we showed in the second half that if we play like that, we’ll have a good chance in Atlanta. … I think the second half was pretty dominant for us.”
In a physical match plagued by fouls and whistles, Atlanta was content to sit back and bring the one-goal edge down South. Though NYCFC created more pressure in the second half and dominated possession, the home team was held without a shot on target the entire match and left the field to boos.
The Eastern Conference final is 90 minutes closer — and further from view.
“We know what we have to do,” Johnson said. “Nothing in the past matters, going forward. It just comes down to the belief in the group.”