Will NYCFC’s strong finish to the regular season carry over for MLS Cup playoffs?
Sean Johnson recognizes the importance of finishing the regular season strong. That opinion is based on history, both for New York City FC and the club that went on to win MLS Cup.
The veteran goalkeeper likes what he sees from NYCFC, which extended an unbeaten to streak to nine games following a 4-1 victory over Atlanta United Wednesday night in the club’s final regular season game at Yankee Stadium.
He believes if NYCFC’s form can continue through the final two games of the season — at New England Sunday and at Philadelphia on Decision Day — it will not only mean first place in the Eastern Conference, but also that NYCFC is going into the playoffs on a high note.
That wasn’t the case in 2017, when the Cityzens won just one of their last seven games before being knocked out of the MLS Cup playoffs by the Columbus Crew at first asking.
And in 2018, NYCFC were 2-5-4 down the stretch and, after beating the Union in the knockout round, the club were ousted by eventual champion Atlanta 4-1 on aggregate.
In contrast, 2017 MLS Cup champion Toronto FC went 8-2-1 to capture the Supporters’ Shield. Last year, the Five Stripes were 10-3-2 to close out the regular season and lost out on the Shield on Decision Day to the New York Red Bulls.
Currently, NYCFC are 7-0-2 heading into the final two regular-season games.
“We’re finally in a position now that we’re on the up and up instead of in previous years being a little rocky at the end,” Johnson told Pro Soccer USA. “We hit a really good way. You can’t ask for anything more going into the playoffs. I think you’ve seen the past a different [playoff] structure, but the thing that really holds true is that teams that carry that momentum into the playoffs are the ones that are typically better off.”