Yankee Stadium conundrum adds new NYCFC playoff challenge
NYCFC are entering a hugely anticipated postseason under subpar circumstances.
After ending the season with a club-record 64 points and the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, NYCFC are being booted from their home turf at Yankee Stadium because of the just-concluded ALCS.
NYCFC will host Toronto FC on Wednesday at Citi Field, relinquishing much of the home-field advantage that helped them to the best regular season in team history. Toronto enters the conference semifinals fresh off of a 5-1 shellacking over DC United on Saturday.
Despite NYCFC trading the Yankees’ digs for the Mets’, there’s reason to believe they can advance.
The team finished the regular season with the second-best road record in the league, going 7-5-5 away from Yankee Stadium. In fact, NYCFC were actually more prolific on the road than at home compared to their foes, finishing with just the eighth-most home goals (34) but the second-most road goals (29).
The game versus Toronto will be considered a home game with an asterisk, but NYCFC have proved to date that they’re more than comfortable playing outside of The Bronx — and without a star name.
Spanish striker David Villa became the last of the trio he formed with Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo in 2015 to depart the club, leaving NYCFC in 2018 after four prolific seasons.
Yet what NYCFC have lacked in household names they made up for in production.
New signings Alexandru Mitrita and Héber tore up MLS, scoring 12 and 15 goals apiece, while Maxi Moralez continued his creative magic for yet another season and finished with 12 assists.
Those additions, combined with another year of solid defensive play, created a more consistent NYCFC team that lost just six games all season. But that will be tested on Wednesday.
Toronto thrashed NYCFC 4-0 in March and even managed to secure a point at Yankee Stadium last month to halt a five-game NYCFC winning streak.
With Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, Toronto has a breadth of playoff experience and is just two years removed from an MLS Cup victory. Gonzalez alone won three MLS cups during his time with the Galaxy.
That type of savvy is something that NYCFC have frankly yet to display in their brief history, having failed to advance past the conference semifinals in their three postseason appearances.
That “pretender” reputation can be shed Wednesday with a win against this seasoned Toronto side.