NEW YORK — Heading into Decision Day last Sunday, New York City had failed to tally three goals or more in back-to-back games since May 7, 2017 – or a stretch of 38 matches.
That streak ended following identical 3-1 score lines in consecutive matches against the Philadelphia Union in the regular-season finale and the MLS knockout round playoff match Wednesday.
NYCFC next plays Atlanta United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday at Yankee Stadium (7:48 p.m. EST kickoff).
A combination of health and home field benefits has City feeling confident ahead of the next postseason round.
“It’s not a secret the last month of the regular season we did bad,” NYCFC captain David Villa said in reference to a stretch of nine matches with just one win. “Some parts of the season we miss players with injury and now, everyone is healthy. It’s good for [coach] Dome [Torrent] because he can choose different options for the benefit of the team.”
The New York City FC coach has the luxury of choosing from 23 players, which was not the case for a majority of the 19 matches he has coached in MLS – including 11 games missed by the talisman, Villa.
“Maybe it is our best moment because we recover many players,” Torrent said. “You see how important it is for us.”
Villa has five goals in the last six matches and leads the team with 15 finishes. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who opened the scoring Wednesday, has been limited or out of eight matches due to injury.
Tajouri-Shradi is second on the team with 12 goals – with just 17 shots on target.
Attacking players Jesus Medina and Jo Inge Berget have missed significant portions of the season, along with midfielder Yangel Herrera and central defender Maxime Chanot. Even durable playmaker Maxi Moralez was forced out for a pair of recent matches.
“Seeing Maxi after the injury, Yangel after the injury, Maxime who had injuries during the season — everyone is healthy,” Villa said. “It’s really good.”
It’s health and happiness for NYCFC, which defeated Atlanta United 3-1 in a May 7 match a season ago at home in the Bronx. And the boys in blue are hoping for a similar outcome Sunday at Yankee Stadium, where they are 13-1-4 this year.