Bronx, N.Y. — New York City FC continued its fabulous form at home, securing a home playoff game in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs with a convincing 3-1 triumph over the Philadelphia Union before an announced crowd of 26,441 at Yankee Stadium.
The Citizens (16-10-8) finish the regular season with a 12-1-4 home record and a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. They will be back in the Bronx again facing Philadelphia for the opening round of the playoffs either Wednesday or Thursday night. The day and time will be set shortly by the league.
The Union dropped from fourth place to sixth when Gyasi Zardes scored a late winner in Columbus Crew SC’s 3-2 victory over Minnesota United.
“We are stronger here, everybody knows,” NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent said of Yankee Stadium when asked about the upcoming rematch with Philadelphia (15-14-5). “You never know. You never know. It’s not easy to win two games in a row with the same team. The best thing for us is to play again in Yankee Stadium. We play with more confidence here.”
NYCFC opened the scoring eight minutes into the match when Maxime Chanot thumped a header past Union keeper Andre Blake off a Maxi Moralez’ corner kick. It was Chanot’s first goal of the season, while Moralez extended his single-season club record for assists to 16.
Two minutes later, Ben Sweat had freedom on the left flank and played a first-time pass toward the middle of the box that Union centerback Auston Trusty steered into his own goal for a 2-0 New York City advantage.
Corey Burke slotted his 10th goal of the season past City goalkeeper Sean Johnson at 14 minutes to close the gap, but New York City captain David Villa pushed in a rebound of his own shot to close the scoring 11 minutes before the interval.
“I’m very happy, especially with this game because we started to play with rhythm, with desire, with a good mentality,” Torrent said. “You can win MLS if you have the desire to win.”
Entering the match, NYCFC had one victory in its last nine games, including a 3-1 drubbing at D.C. United last Sunday.
“When you win, you are more confident in everything,” Villa said. “You believe in yourself, in your teammates and the team.”
The 36-year-old Villa has missed 14 matches this year due to injury but still produced a team-leading 14 goals. He believes his side has been buoyed by the return of 20-year-old midfielder Yangel Herrera, who made his first start since late May following ankle surgery.
“Of course, he’s one of the best players. Not only on our team, he’s one of the best players in the league, without a doubt, in his position,” Villa said. “He has an amazing future and he’s really important for us.”
Herrera played 18 minutes in a reserve role last Sunday, producing an assist on a Villa goal six minutes after entering the match. He started against Philadelphia, but the gameplan was altered along the way.
“The first idea was for Yangel to play 50-60 minutes, but he told me at halftime that he felt good,” Torrent said. “I told him when he got tired, hand up and I’ll change.”
The hand never came up, and New York City earned an important home match in the first knockout playoff match in franchise history.