FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With two games remaining in the MLS regular season, New York City FC is in command to clinch first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time.
However, securing the spot will not be a facile task.
The Pigeons (17-5-10) need just one point to clinch, but face a pair of road matches to close the schedule. Today at Gillette Stadium, City will visit the New England Revolution (10-10-12), who can qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2015 with a triumph. Meanwhile, second place Philadelphia visits Columbus trying to keep its East title hopes alive with a win.
Philadelphia closes the regular season with a home match versus New York City on MLS Decision Day.
And there is a possibility that it may be the resolution for both clubs.
“It’s possible this Sunday (today) or the next game, but the next game will be dangerous because if Philadelphia is able to win the game in Columbus they can finish in the first position,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “Right now, in my mind, I’m sure Philadelphia will win the game against Columbus. We have to make our job, not Philadelphia.”
If City were to drop its final two matches while the Union were victorious in their two fixtures, the Union would finish ahead of NYCFC atop the East based on the first tiebreaker — victories.
In its title quest today, New York City will be without five regulars – Anton Tinnerholm (concussion) and Keaton Parks (hamstring), both sidelined for the second consecutive match, while Alex Ring, Maxime Chanot and Taty Castellanos are suspended due to yellow card accumulation following the 4-1 thrashing of Atlanta on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
James Sands will miss his ninth consecutive match with a broken collarbone, but is expected to be available for a return to the squad in the season finale against the Union. Parks will be out until the playoffs while Tinnerholm awaits permission to resume once he has passed the MLS concussion protocol.
New York City came close to finalizing their spot at the top of the table with the convincing victory over the MLS Cup defenders on Wednesday, but the Union rallied from a goal down at San Jose to defeat the Earthquakes, 2-1.
Torrent said if his side had clinched first Wednesday, not much would have changed with his lineup this afternoon.
“I have experience in that when you finish in the first position in the last month,” said Torrent, who won titles as an assistant at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
“We have to respect the league, and we have to respect the other teams. If we were able to clinch the first position last week, the best way to respect MLS is to play with at least 80% of the best team.”
The anticipated celebration was muted by the Union and now Torrent understands one thing about that single point to earn home field advantage in the East and a Concacaf Champions League berth.
“We need it as soon as possible.”
Pro Soccer USA provides NYCFC commentary
Supplying radio commentary of the New England-NYCFC match today are a pair of contributors to Pro Soccer USA. Glenn Crooks and Dylan Butler, who both cover NYCFC for PSUSA, can be heard on WNYE 91.5FM in NY, the New York City FC Network on nycfc.com/livestream and SiriusXM FC Channel 157. Airtime for the pregame program is 5 p.m. ET.