New York City FC will look to put their Halloween misfortune behind them Sunday as they host Columbus Crew SC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
NYCFC fell Tuesday, 4-1, in the first leg and must make up the three-goal aggregate deficit at Yankee Stadium. With their backs against the wall, the Blues will look to avoid a second consecutive postseason in which they earned the No. 2 seed in the East, received a knockout-round bye and failed to advance.
“We’re going to go into the game with the same tactical plan,” defender Ben Sweat told amNewYork. “We’re going to be playing at home, so we’re going to have all the fans at our back. We’re going to have that extra energy and the extra boost to make that comeback.”
This will be the third time these teams will meet since Oct. 22. Columbus challenges City every time they meet, as New York’s record against them stands a 2-3-3 entering Sunday.
The first leg in Columbus, Ohio, got off to a tough start for NYCFC. City conceded a goal just six minutes after the first whistle. After Blues defender Alexander Callens received a red card at the start of the second half, the Crew scored in the 58th and 69th minutes before David Villa scored for NYCFC — the club’s first-ever postseason goal — in the 78th. A stoppage time goal gave Columbus a three-goal edge in the two-game series.
The 26-year-old Sweat understands advancing will not be easy but said the team will enter the game with high hopes.
“We all had to adjust differently and play a little bit smarter,” Sweat said. “We knew we couldn’t keep conceding goals and knew how important it was to get a goal back. Bringing out more intensity, more energy and more tempo for myself and players around me is going to allow the team to play at the highest level possible.”
NYCFC is counting on the supporters to buoy their battle for playoff survival. The club has averaged 23,000 fans per game in the Bronx. A limited number of tickets remain available.
“They’ve been by our side all year,” Sweat said. “To have them backing us up this Sunday is going to be massive for us.”