NYCFC’s chances to advance in MLS is Back Tournament thin ahead of group-stage finale Monday

Alex Ring
New York City midfielder Alexander Ring (8) and Orlando City forward Tesho Akindele (13) go for the ball during the second half at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s going to take something special for New York City FC to stay in the Orlando bubble for a little while longer. 

After two-straight defeats to open Group A play, NYCFC enters its final group-stage game needing a win against expansion side Inter Miami CF to maintain any sort of hope that they can advance to the Round of 16. 

To do so, they’ll need some luck on their side, too. 

As it stands, the Cityzens have a 20% chance of making it to the knockout round, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Those are the 18th-best odds out of 24 teams currently playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. 

What they’ll need to do is beat Inter Miami by multiple goals to improve their goal-difference line while hoping some other results sway their way. 

If, with three points, they are one of the four best third-place teams at the MLS is Back Tournament, they’ll get to the Round of 16. There are currently five teams that are not seeded within the top two of their respective groups that have at least one point — more than NYCFC has. 

It’s a large ask considering New York’s MLS club has scored just a single goal this season dating back to March 1 — a complete 180 from a team that has been one of the top squads in the Eastern Conference in recent years. 

“Since I’ve been at the club I think I’ve lost twice in a row once, so it’s been something new,” captain Alex Ring told reporters via Zoom. “We say the identity of the club is we try to win games. So for us, it’s an unusual situation.”

Their opener against the Philadelphia Union saw an Alejandro Bedoya second-half winner steal a match NYCFC had largely dominated. Pressure only built further after a slow start resulted in a 3-1 loss to Orlando City SC. 

“I think we have started the games not so good. We have to be much more aggressive in the start of the games,” head coach Ronny Deila said. “When it got to 2-0 under in the last game, after that it was 6-3 goal chances to us. So it’s almost like we don’t have anything to lose and we go hard and attack, so I think we have to be more offensive in our mindset when we go on the pitch.”

Monday’s group-stage finale will be played at 9 a.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN.