What the New York City FC playoff victory means for the MLS playoffs

Soccer alone does not enable one to play in a 60-minute soccer game. A team has to be able to control possession, change fields and execute. On Wednesday night, New York City FC completely…

What the New York City FC playoff victory means for the MLS playoffs

Soccer alone does not enable one to play in a 60-minute soccer game. A team has to be able to control possession, change fields and execute.

On Wednesday night, New York City FC completely dominated the game, outshooting, outshooting, outshooting and out-passing Columbus Crew SC. Throughout the course of the game, the visitors had multiple scoring opportunities but were unable to convert. Considering the eight to nine shots Columbus put on goal in the same period, it was a surprising result. After taking the lead in the eighth minute, NYCFC continued to outshoot Columbus, 28-7. They had many more defensive clearances and more key saves from goalkeeper Sean Johnson to not only extend the game but also ensure NYCFC’s remaining four goals.

The game was a microcosm of the game for NYCFC. NYCFC changed fields late in the first half after winning a ball in midfield, establishing possession and moving it forward. In doing so, NYCFC had some good chances, but simply couldn’t finish. Finally, in the 57th minute, the Crew broke down and found the net. It was a lapse in New York City’s stellar ball distribution that led to a corner kick. A counterattack following the corner ended with Crew midfielder Federico Higuain finishing easily.

But that would only be a brief respite for New York City. A minute later, NYCFC had another opportunity, this time in the 61st minute. The ball was played into the box, and Pablo Sarabia controlled the ball with his chest. Sarabia appeared to put the ball just over Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark’s foot, but a video review confirmed that Sarabia had knocked the ball down slightly too early. The play was then reviewed again with additional angles, and the goal was disallowed.

As the game continued and the Crew’s lack of finishing disappeared, New York City was able to come up with opportunities of their own. NYCFC continued to outshoot Columbus. A minute later, Babacar Kamara settled a ball just outside the area, spun and drilled a shot. Clark made the save. A few minutes later, captain Frank Lampard connected with Lacina Traore on a one-on-one with Clark. Traore controlled the ball and gave up a yellow card. But despite that, Kamara ran down the sideline and found a teammate, and Lampard found a space inside the box. He finally earned a chance with a shot from six yards, and the pass was perfect. The goal stood after being reviewed.

One of the joys of the MLS playoffs is, as the weeks go by, watching the best players in the world battle for a berth in the MLS Cup. Wednesday night’s match proved to be an example of that. As New York City continued to pull away, Columbus was unable to get their act together. New York City took care of business, and if the space they created in the second half was any indication, they can cause matchup problems for teams in the second round.

As Sunday’s game begins, it will be interesting to see how NYCFC gets their players to perform like this when a field is as small as Yankee Stadium, where the game is slated to be played.

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