NYCFC keeping focus on end of regular season

IMAGE, HOUSTONDYNAMO.COM

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

Though their primary objective is complete, New York City FC are not ready to look forward to their first appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs.

“I’m very comfortable but the season is not done,” David Villa said. “The best thing we can do is thinking we have three games, we need to win three games. It’s not thinking about the first spot, second spot, third or fourth. We are in the playoffs, we have three games left, we need to win three games.”

The first of those three games is Friday night in Houston against an improved Dynamo side under interim head coach Wade Barrett. The Dynamo are last in the Western Conference with a minimal chance at making the playoffs but have only lost once in their last seven matches including wins in their last two matches at Real Salt Lake and against the Portland Timbers last weekend.

“We prepare this week to face a good team who are playing much better than they used to in the beginning of the season,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “They have players who are capable of making a difference by themselves. They are a really, really good side and if we are not prepared mentally, we are not going to have a chance to win that game.”

NYCFC, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls are tied atop the Eastern Conference with 48 points with Toronto set to play its game in hand tonight. Only the top-two teams securing a bye into the Conference Semifinals and City are focusing on finishing in those places. Vieira said he needs his team to keep its desire to improve in order to reach their next objective.

“We have to be demanding and I have to be demanding of the players,” Vieira said. “We qualified for the playoffs but that is not our aim, that is just one of our targets. Our next target is to finish in the top-two. To finish in the top-two, we have to win all our games because the Red Bulls, Toronto, Philadelphia, they will be their fighting for that two spot as well and we have to fight with them.

Steven Mendoza is unlikely to be available for the match in Houston after coming off with an injured hamstring in last Friday’s win against the Chicago Fire. Vieira said he hopes to see Mendoza return ‘in the next two weeks.’ Maxime Chanot and Frank Lampard will both miss the game as well and are at different points in their recoveries.

Although both NYCFC and the Red Bulls are in the playoffs, only Red Bull head coach Jesse Marsch has recently entertained the idea of a playoff meeting between the two. Marsch said it would be ‘electric’ if the two teams would meet but Villa is not thinking that far ahead yet.

“We know the Red Bulls and Toronto are in but we wait for the other three teams to get in the playoffs and then we think about the playoffs,” Villa said. “Now we think about the regular season, we need to win three games. After Columbus when the game is finished, we have time to think about it. If we have to play in the knockout or if we rest but we take it step-by-step. We can’t think about things more than Houston now.”