New York City FC and Toronto FC battled it out on different pitches last Sunday. It only makes sense they find themselves on the same field the next two Sundays, too.
The clubs will face off in the Eastern Conference semifinals as each chases its first MLS Cup. Neither has advanced this deep in the playoffs before, with NYCFC making its postseason debut and Toronto being ousted in the knockout stage in last year’s franchise-first playoff game.
Because NYCFC is new to postseason soccer, here’s a primer with three “hows” for the semifinals.
How the playoffs work
City edged TFC in the hunt for the No. 2 seed and a bye to the semis after both clubs won their respective matchups last week, allowing NYCFC to retain its grip on the preferred seed and get some rest. But Toronto came through in Wednesday’s knockout game by downing Philadelphia Union, 3-1, to set up the home-and-home series.
Toronto hosts Game 1 this Sunday, with Game 2 coming back to Yankee Stadium next weekend. This round utilizes soccer’s aggregate-goal format to determine who advances to the conference finals. If tied after 180 minutes of soccer over two games, a pair of 15-minute periods will follow to determine a winner. If still tied, they go to penalty kicks.
How they match up
The clubs met twice this season, and the results who was better are inconclusive.
On March 13 in the Bronx, David Villa scored twice in the first half for City in a 2-2 draw. The same result came May 18 in Toronto as they settled at 1-1.
Both games were played before Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison made their season debuts and changed NYCFC’s fortunes for the better. Behind them and captain Villa, the No. 2 goal scorer during the season, City was the top-scoring team in MLS.
TFC is led by Sebastian Giovinco, who finished third in goals and second in assists. His 32 combined goals and assists ranked first in the league.
How the matchup will go
Toronto is no pushover, but this should be NYCFC’s series to lose if the defense holds its own. When Villa, Lampard, Harrison and Andrea Pirlo all are available, City is as good as they come stateside.
Look for NYCFC to acquit themselves well in Canada before outclassing TFC at Yankee Stadium next week.