Being drawn into Group A, the lone group at the MLS is Back Tournament that has more than four teams, NYCFC will have a unique experience to an already unprecedented event.
The tournament represents MLS's return to play after what will be nearly four months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the group of six, NYCFC won't play all five of their group opponents and creates more competition at the top of the group. The top two advance to the knockout round with the third place team having a chance to move on as well, pending other groups.
It may not be ideal, but NYCFC aren't looking for excuses. They're ready to pounce.
"For me, you don't look to complain about the type of draw you get or being at disadvantage against anyone," goalkeeper Sean Johnson told reporters on a video conference call. "Every team we play we try to win and be dominant. I don't think there's going to be any chatter about the draw being a disadvantage."
One problem facing all clubs is how to best attack the group stage, which counts towards the regular season standings. Outside of the simplistic mantra of winning every game, minutes will have to be balanced and points will be at stake that may decide playoff future later in the campaign.
"It's going to be difficult to juggle both and strategize, if you will," Johnson said. "The reality is it's a tournament at the end of the day, all games count. That's the important thing."
NYCFC have returned to full training this week, at the New York Red Bulls' facility in New Jersey as New York state guidelines still prohibit full-team sessions at their own training ground. It's the first time the group is fully back together in three months.
The sessions have been typical for players returning from a long break of regular play, like coming back for preseason ahead of a new campaign. NYCFC have been able to hit the ground running thanks to general fitness levels throughout the squad.
"There's been rust, which was to be expected," Johnson said. "But our team did a fantastic job of staying in shape. Everybody committed themselves to staying in a certain condition that allowed us to pick up at a point where we're further along than I think a lot of teams will be at this point in time."
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