For 4 Locals, Lost Weekend Would Be Last Weekend

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

A quartet of metropolitan area teams are fighting for their soccer lives this weekend — Red Bull II in the United Soccer League; the senior Red Bulls and New York City FC in Major League Soccer; and the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.

All could play on. All could see their 2017 seasons end on Saturday or Sunday evening. Some could survive. Here’s a quick look at what’s at stake.

Louisville City vs. Red Bull II

Red Bulls II logoThese two teams meet again in the USL Eastern Conference final with a trip to USL Cup on the line. No. 7 New York is the defending league champion while No. 1 Louisville finished first in the conference, 18 points ahead of New York.

The Baby Bulls scored a pair of upsets to advance this far — ousting Charleston, 4-0; and then Tampa Bay, 2-1. In last year’s conference final at Red Bull Arena, New York fought back from a goal down to tie it, winning in a penalty kick shootout.

Stefano Bonomo has led the Red Bulls in the postseason, notching both goals last week and three over all, while goalkeeper Evan Louro had a spectacular game last week against the Rowdies as he dealt with 23 shots.

The Match: Louisville Slugger Stadium; Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern; TV/USL Match Center (online)

Toronto FC vs. Red Bulls

Red Bulls logoThe second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series finds the No. 6 Red Bulls looking up a steep, steep hill. No. 1 Toronto, which lost in last year’s MLS Cup final, is seeking to cap a record-breaking year (69 points) with the club’s third piece of silverware: the Reds have already won the Canadian Championship and the league’s Supporters’ Shield as the top team through a 34-game season.

Last Monday at Red Bull Arena, the hosts committed a cardinal sin by fouling Sebastian Giovinco at the top of the penalty area. The Italian striker gave his team the 2-1 victory when he buried his seventh free kick of the year, past Luis Robles. New York left the game chastened and humbled, thoroughly deflated after its 4-0 knockout round triumph at Chicago.

Merely to stay in contention, the Red Bulls need to score two goals and then deny the league’s highest-scoring team (74 goals). To that end, Coach Jesse Marsch must consider starting striker Gonzalo Verón up front with Bradley Wright-Phillips, perhaps dropping Michael Amir Murillo, who failed to cover the near post on Giovinco’s free kick, and moving Kemar Lawrence back to the back line.

The Match: BMO Field; Sunday; coverage begins at 3 p.m. Eastern, TV/ESPN, ESPN Deportes

New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew

NYCFC logoThe second leg of this Eastern Conference semifinal series finds No. 2 NYCFC in a huge hole after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss against the No. 5 Crew in Columbus. The Crew played like a team possessed, especially in light of the recent uproar over the plans of the team’s owner to move the club to Austin, Tex., in 2019 if he can’t secure a new downtown stadium.

Back on the field, Columbus has not lost a game since early August, a streak of 12 matches, which includes its two wins in the postseason. NYCFC has only one win in its last eight games as Coach Patrick Vieira is dealing with a team that has scored only nine goals over that span. The Pigeons will also have to play without defender Alexander Callens, who had appeared in every minute of every regular season game.

After a strong regular season, NYCFC is possibly staring at another embarrassing playoff exit after last year’s 7-0 aggregate thumping at the hands of Toronto.

The Match: Yankee Stadium; Sunday; coverage begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, TV/ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Miami FC vs. New York Cosmos

Cosmos logoThe Cosmos’ quest for a third straight NASL title will be severely challenged by No. 1 Miami FC, which became the first club in the league’s Modern Era to finish first in both the Spring and the Fall Season since the format was adopted.

The semifinal in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, sends No. 4 New York to South Florida to face the league’s highest-scoring team (61 goals) and leading goal scorer in Stefano Pinho (17), including five goals in the final month of the regular season.

It has been an up-and-down year for the defending league champions who did not clinch a postseason berth until the final weekend of the Fall Season. Emmanuel Ledesma, the league’s player of the month, scored a hat trick to put the Cosmos in the postseason and totaled 10 goals and 6 assists while also leading the league in chances created (73).

The five games between the teams this year ended in two wins for each team, plus a draw. A Miami victory would make it the host for the final. The Cosmos would be on the road if they win.

The Match: Riccardo Silva Stadium; Sunday, 5 p.m. Eastern; TV/beIN Sports, beIN Sports Connect