NYCFC Notes: Villa, Lopez discuss playoff push, int’l call-ups

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

PURCHASE, N.Y. – New York City FC will be in the playoffs for the first time in their history. The second-year club can finish anywhere in the top three places in the Eastern Conference depending on how it performs in the final two games.

After leading the team with two goals in Friday night’s victory, David Villa said the playoffs have already started for the team. Although there are 11 days before NYCFC’s next MLS game, that mentality is carrying through for Friday night’s friendly — and the weeks to come.

“We started the playoffs in Houston, it’s the best way we can do it,” Villa said. “The playoffs start right now because it is not the same being in the sixth position or the first position. The objective is to win both our games. We want to win in D.C. and then after focus on Columbus. The best way we can approach the games is that we need to win both games.”

Villa said he wanted to see the team continue its improvement from throughout the year over the following weeks. City have a mix of youth and depth on its roster but have never been in the playoffs. Five players made playoff rosters but only Josh Saunders, Mehdi Ballouchy and Jason Hernandez ever played in a playoff game. Mikey Lopez was a rookie who did not feature in Sporting Kansas City’s MLS Cup-winning side in 2013.

“It’s a whole different animal compared to the regular season,” Lopez said. “What you need in the playoffs is a run. It doesn’t matter what position you are. A six seed can beat a number one and then go on and win MLS Cup. We have to go about it a different way. Like David told us before, we have to play every game as a final because honestly, it’s a final. It doesn’t matter what game it is. It could be the first leg of the semifinal or the wild card or the MLS Cup, it doesn’t matter.

“We have to take that one game and prepare for it like it’s  a final.”

Vieira’s full picture of MLS

The match against the Houston Dynamo is now in the past which means Patrick Vieira has faced every team in MLS.

And by any objective measure, Vieira can look back at this campaign with a great deal of pride. The first year coach has been at the vanguard of an incredible turnaround for the team. He credited his first year success to his time with the Manchester City EDS where he said he refined his tactical beliefs and gained confidence in sticking with them when City went through its 1–3–4 start.

Vieira said his time traveling across the country and witnessing each team playing first hand has altered his perspective about MLS as well. Having seen the play first-hand, he now believes there are numerous players who can play overseas.

“You know what? When we are from Europe, we don’t have the right level of the league. Playing all the teams so far, there are some really good teams that are well-organized, ” he said. “There are some fantastic players in the league and I strongly believe there are some players that can play in any team in Europe.

“The league is more competitive than people think it is. It’s really difficult to go away from home and perform and win games. There is a good technical players, strong physical players with pace. You find different teams with different philosophies but overall it is a competitive league.”

Callups

Tony Taylor and Ronald Matarrita left the team after their win in Houston to join their national teams for upcoming friendlies. Taylor is joining the Panamanian National Team for the first time having once been in the US Youth National Team set up. Panama will play Mexico on Oct. 11 in Chicago. Matarrita is with Costa Rica for their friendly against Russia.

Jason Hernandez was called up for Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Cup qualifying matches against Antigua & Barbuda and Curacao. Maxime Chanot did not receive a call up from Luxembourg and continues to recover from his back injury.