This could have been the year New York City FC took the next step forward and finally advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
However, following their third straight elimination in the conference semifinals on Sunday — 4-1 on aggregate against Atlanta United over the two-game series — NYCFC’s future is marked by more questions than answers.
Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Atlanta was filled with sloppy mistakes. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s tackle inside the box on Atlanta’s Franco Escobar led to a penalty kick by Josef Martinez. Another foul just outside the 18-yard-box led to Miguel Almiron’s free kick into the top corner of the net just before halftime.
“It is not easy to play when you make two mistakes and they score,” a frustrated Domènec Torrent told reporters after Sunday’s match. “Soccer is about mistakes. When you arrive in the semifinals and the final, it’s the team that doesn’t concede goals and doesn’t make mistakes who will have the opportunity to make the final.”
The critical errors ended what was poised to be a better season for NYCFC. Former head coach Patrick Vieira’s departure for Nice of France Ligue 1 in June came with NYCFC atop MLS. Although Torrent began his tenure strong with wins in five of his first six matches, it ended roughly as they won three of the final 13 regular-season matches.
David Villa, who was the first player to sign with NYCFC in June 2014 and has been the club’s only captain, may have played his final game in the Bronx. If so, he will have departed quietly, without a word to reporters after the club’s third consecutive postseason disappointment.
The 2016 MLS MVP’s contract with the club ends this year, and multiple reports throughout the season indicate NYCFC doesn’t plan to bring him back. However, Villa, who will turn 37 on Dec. 3, also hasn’t hinted at retirement.
Yangel Herrera is expected to head back to Manchester City after completing his loan spell at NYCFC. His absence leaves many questions ahead for Torrent’s roster decisions. His two summer signings, Eloi Amagat and Valentin Castellanos, had little to no impact on the pitch.