Similar to the 2016 MLS playoffs, New York City FC has failed to impress when it matters most. Last year, NYCFC lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to Toronto FC by an aggregate score of 7-0. This year, New York opened their playoff run with a 4-1 loss away from home vs Columbus Crew SC.
New York City FC is going into Sunday's game by three goals. No team has ever come back from a deficit this high in MLS playoff history, can NYCFC be the first? Both the players and manager believe it can be done. Following a club practice, NYCFC manager, Patrick Vieira, told media “There’s no team in this league who went [three goals] down and turned it around, it never happened. But there’s always a first time. It may be Sunday, it may be next year.” The belief is there, but can the club complete an epic comeback?
New York City FC: The home team will be without two, maybe three players on Sunday. First up is Miguel Camargo. The Panamanian midfielder picked up a season-ending injury back during the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer.
Next up is Alexander Callens, who will be suspended for the match. The defender received a red card in leg one and has forced his club to play a full game without him for the first time since his arrival. Callens played every minute of the regular season for his club in his debut season.
The absence of Callens will be a big headline going into Sunday's game due to NYCFC's lack of depth in his position. However, all questions will be answered if Maxime Chanot is fit. The defender has not made an appearance for the club since July and would be a great addition to the backline if available.
Columbus Crew SC: The visitors will be without four players on Sunday.
The first injury news of the season for Columbus this year was Gaston Sauro. The defender had left PCL surgery prior to the season in December of 2016 and is yet to return. Another player who was forced to miss the season is Ben Swanson, the 20-year-old homegrown had right ankle surgery in the middle of the season and will not return in 2017.
Alex Crognale is another Crew player who was forced to have surgery during the season. The defender featured 17 times including 12 starts before undergoing sports hernia surgery in early October. The defender was originally told he'd miss 6-8 weeks following the surgery. The fourth of the bunch is Connor Maloney. The defender had left knee surgery right after the conclusion of the regular season.
The winner of this two-legged series will go on to face the winner of the other Eastern Conference Semifinal between Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. Toronto currently holds a 2-1 lead heading back to BMO Field. Toronto are favorites to advance just like Columbus. The Crew hold a 4-1 lead and would host Toronto in the first leg next round if both favorites when on to win. NYCFC would also host Toronto in the first leg.
However, if the Red Bulls can pull off the upset, they'll host either the Columbus Crew or NYCFC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final. First, we have to see if NYCFC can be the first MLS club to erase a three-goal deficit heading into the second leg of an MLS playoff series.