There was a sense of calm during training on Thursday as New York City FC prepares for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday at Atlanta United.
Considering that NYCFC trails after the first leg in the Eastern semis for the third time in as many appearances, the lack of panic amid a 1-0 deficit on aggregate heading out on the road was surprising. The alarm that could’ve been there is, instead, replaced by a calm sense of urgency.
“We as a team have to perform 100 percent,” defender Anton Tinnerholm told reporters Thursday. “Everyone knows this is the most important game of the season and, of course, it’s a tough game, but it’s up to ourselves. Simple as that.”
Atlanta’s Eric Remedi tapped in a goal at the post in the first of the two-match series last Sunday, giving Atlanta United a crucial 1-0 road win in the Bronx. NYCFC played a better second half at Yankee Stadium, highlighted by a huge stop in the final minutes as Atlanta looked to score what could’ve been a debilitating second goal.
“We’re 1-0 down, and they have to defend a 1-0 lead,” Tinnerholm said. “We have to turn it around and go after it and play like we’ve got nothing to lose.”
If NYCFC scores at Atlanta on Sunday, it’ll push the aggregate score to 1-1, with both overall goals coming on the road, effectively tying the match and setting up the possibility for extra-time and penalty kicks. A 2-0 win for NYCFC on Sunday — making the aggregate score 2-1 — would give NYCFC the series win. The Blues could still advance to the conference finals with a 2-2 aggregate score due to road goals, which is the first tiebreaker in the second leg of a playoff series.
“It’s our knockout game,” head coach Domènec Torrent said. “It’s not about scoring three, four goals. We have to win.”