New York City FC can clinch Eastern Conference top seed with win or draw Sunday

NYCFC visits New England riding a nine-game unbeaten streak and fresh off an impressive victory over defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta.

New York City FC has its sights on the MLS Cup, and the list of accolades for the club continues to pile up during their magical late-season run. A win or draw on Sunday at New England Revolution (10-10-12, 42 points) will give NYCFC (17-5-10, 61 points) its first-ever finish atop the Eastern Conference.

In what was maybe the Blues’ biggest regular season result in their five-year history, NYCFC dominated the defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United, 4-1, at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. The emphatic victory avenged a 2-1 loss in their Aug. 11 visit to Atlanta. NYCFC is unbeaten since the defeat, posting a 7-0-2 mark and stringing together a points streak that has been nothing short of phenomenal during the most pivotal stretch on the league calendar.

“Our players played really well, and it’s important for the next step to finish in the first position,” manager Domènec Torrent said after the match. “I’m happy for these players. It’s important for the coach to have players who are ready all the time. It doesn’t matter if they play five minutes, they’re ready.”

The win over Atlanta clinched a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League for NYCFC. It also featured a historic performance from Alexandru Mitrita, who put the game away early with a first-half hat trick, tying him with David Villa for the club record for most goals in a single match.

“David Villa is a top player; I can’t compare with him,” Mitrita told reporters after the match. “I’m doing my best to do my job and help the team.”

Modesty aside, Mitrita has been a major catalyst during NYCFC’s point streak, scoring six goals in his last six matches. Now with 12 overall goals this season, he shined brightest under the Yankee Stadium lights in the season’s biggest match, and team captain Alexander Ring played up that fact when he took the microphone after the final regular season home match to thank the club’s supporters.

“I hope you enjoyed the show!” Ring shouted.

Chris Longo