ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — When the New York Yankees swept their American League Divisional Series with the Minnesota Twins, New York City FC moved a step closer to the likelihood of playing at least some of their MLS Cup playoff games at Citi Field in Queens.
NYCFC captain Alex Ring is confident the club will maintain a distinct home field advantage even if they lose their usual home field.
“We can always make it a home game no matter where we’re playing in New York,” Ring said.
It was a sentiment echoed by goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“I think we did all we could to put ourselves in the most advantageous position at this point in the season,” he told Pro Soccer USA. “And when you have home games, with the fans behind this, for me it doesn’t matter where we are, we have to go in and take care of business. It’s not enough to say playing at Citi Field is not an advantage for us because we are professionals.”
Last week, NYCFC announced the contingency plan where playoff games could be moved from Yankee Stadium to the home of the New York Mets based on the Yankees advancement in the MLB postseason.
The only way NYCFC do not play at least the Eastern Conference semifinals Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in Flushing is if the Yankees lose to the Houston Astros in four or five games in their best-of-seven ALCS.
If the Yankees advance to the World Series, both the Eastern Conference semifinals and final would be at Citi Field.
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said the first thought that entered his mind when thinking about the possibility of moving home games to Queens is to acclimate the team as quickly as possible.
“The first idea for me when when I think about that is I’m a coach and I have to adapt quickly if that happens,” Torrent said. “If that happens, we will try to train at last three or four days before the game in the other stadium. But sometimes, it can happen because everybody knows we have another team in our stadium.”
NYCFC have already called Citi Field home — once — on Decision Day in 2017 due to another Yankees playoff scheduling conflict. The club drew Columbus Crew SC that late October afternoon.
Ring, Johnson, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat, Maxi Moralez and Ronald Matarrita are the only current players on the NYCFC roster to play in that game.
“I didn’t have any problems playing there,” Ring said. “I don’t have any problems playing in Yankee Stadium as long as we win. I don’t care.”
Added Johnson: “At the end of the day, if we want to achieve something, we’re going to have to win three games. For me, obviously it would be great to play at Yankee Stadium, but given the circumstances, if it pops up that we play at Citi Field, we’ll handle it accordingly and approach it professionally and make sure that we do all is necessary to go there and and get the job done.”
Torrent said the potential move to Citi Field is “not an excuse,” and urges his players to keep their mentality on what they can control leading up to the business end of the season.
“If you waste time about that, sometimes you lose control over how important it is to be focused on other things like individual training,” Torrent said. “That means to eat well, rest well, focus on every single second in the facility.”
Much has been made of NYCFC’s advantage of playing at Yankee Stadium, especially the tight dimensions of the pitch. While Torrent said he was unsure how that would translate to Citi Field, if the 2017 match is any indication, the size would be the same as in the Bronx.
Torrent said, taking away wins at home against the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United, some of the club’s best performances were actually away from the Bronx.
“The reason why maybe is the size of the stadium because we have the right players to play maybe in the Galaxy stadium, the D.C. stadium, not in Yankee Stadium,” Torrent said. “Because in Yankee Stadium, the opponent defends really well, with five, with six in the back. It’s not easy to attack. I understand the opponent when they talk about Yankee Stadium, but if you want to defend it’s better to defend in Yankee Stadium than another stadium.”
Torrent is also quick to point out another reason why he believes NYCFC has been 11-1-5 at home this season.
“But for me, the important [thing] is our fans, because when we have the support of our fans, we play much better,” Torrent said. “Maybe that is one of the reasons why we got more points in Yankee Stadium because we have our supporters.”