Reminders of the expansion 2015 season tend to be cringe-worthy for the New York City Football Club.
The Cityzens failed to qualify for the playoffs due in part to a paltry road record that included just four wins in 17 matches.
While NYCFC is postseason bound for the third consecutive time since the inaugural season, they sit on that same figure – four road wins in 2018 (4-8-4) – with just one match remaining away from Yankee Stadium – today at Audi Field against D.C. United (3:08pm EST).
“We have to win,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “When you are close to the playoffs the most important thing is to win. Before, the most important thing for me was to find a way to play and play a little bit different because we had to improve a lot especially the way we play away.”
New York City’s last road win was a 3-2 triumph at Toronto FC on August 12.
In their last road match on on September 29, New York City dropped a 2-1 decision at Minnesota United although starters David Villa, Maxi Moralez and Maxime Chanot were left home to avoid the perils of playing on the notorious artificial surface at TCF Bank Stadium.
NYCFC has been idle for three weeks during the international break and while they expect Yangel Herrera back from a nearly five month absence, Moralez (lower leg) and Jo Inge Berget (adductor) sustained injuries in training and will miss the D.C. United affair and the first look at the new Audi Field for the boys from the Bronx.
United did not play their initial home match in downtown D.C. until July 14 – which was also the debut of England’s all-time leading goal scorer, Wayne Rooney.
D.C. United is enjoying the comforts of the new park with a dominant 11-2-1 mark which has catapulted the club from the MLS doldrums into playoff position.
“You’re supposed to win your home games, that’s what teams do,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen told SiriusXM FC. “It’s hard to play on the road. That’s obviously helped that we haven’t been travelling and we’re in our own environment.”
Plus, the addition of Rooney who has six goals in his last five appearances – 10 goals and seven assists overall. United are the only team in the league without a loss since September 1.
“The way he’s elevated other players has been one of the most impressive things about Wayne that I’ve seen,” Olsen said. “Not necessarily his play on the field, we knew that was going to elevate our team.”
Olsen said that despite his global renown, Rooney has also made his managerial life less anxious.
“If a guy like Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) walks into a locker room, I think that’s a different personality than Wayne and then you really are forced to change who you are as a manger or maybe go outside of your comfort zone,” Olsen said. “Wayne hasn’t made me do that. He’s a no drama guy, simply put. A blue collar guy that is selfless.”
New York City leads the overall series (4-3-1) with a 1-1 draw on September 8 at Yankee Stadium. City outshot United, 31-2 and held 69-percent of the possession.
“We were able to create many, many chances,” Torrent lamented. “We have to improve in the finishing and focus on Rooney and (Luciano) Acosta (nine goals, 16 assists).”
Rooney was held to one shot at the Stadium – a low-percentage overhead kick – but had a set-piece assist on Steve Birnbaum’s headed finish to enable United to escape with a point.