The MLS regular season comes to a close Sunday, and New York City FC (14-10-9, 51 points) holds Fan Appreciation Day when it matters most.
The team is one win at Yankee Stadium against the Columbus Crew (8-13-12, 36 points) away from clinching the second seed in the MLS playoff bracket. If City loses, they need Toronto FC (13-9-11, 50 points) to lose or draw their last home game against the Chicago Fire (7-16-10, 31 points). Toronto and NYCFC are just one point apart in the standings, bringing a lot of tension before the playoffs begin. City needs to hold on to the second seed in order to skip the knockout round and earn a first-week bye.
Columbus, just 2-10-4 away from home, is coming off a 3-2 loss against the New York Red Bulls, who secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference last Sunday. NYCFC has not been spectacular in the Bronx, but they do hold an advantage against opponents with a 7-3-6 home record.
NYCFC hosts the Crew for the first time this season after two trips to Mapfre Stadium earlier in this campaign. In City’s short club history, they have yet to record a win against Columbus. The Crew won, 3-2, on April 16 as captain David Villa’s brace was not enough for the victory. An Aug. 13 matchup ended in a 3-3 draw after strong efforts from Villa and Crew striker Ethan Finlay. Columbus walked away with 2-1 victory last time they played in Yankee Stadium in 2015.
One player who could make the difference is midfielder Frank Lampard, who has missed the last three games due to a thigh strain. Lampard aims to return Sunday, as he has been training to give his team a boost just in time for the playoffs.