NEW YORK – The deficit is massive, but so too is the belief for New York City FC.
They believe there’s still a chance at advancing out of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series despite a 4-1 loss in the opening leg at Columbus Crew SC on Tuesday night. No team in Major League Soccer history has dug themselves out of a three-goal deficit in the opening leg and reached the next round.
“This is a difficult task, there’s no doubt about it,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said following training at Yankee Stadium on Friday. “There’s no team in this league who went [three goals] down and turned it around, it never happened. But there’s always a first time. It may be Sunday, it may be next year.”
Given a few days to digest the opening leg loss, Vieira said the only thing missing in the way his team played was finishing their ample chances.
“I think when you look at the game in itself, we created enough chance to score more than one goal and we didn’t do it,” Vieira said. “Of course, when you have a game plan and you’re going to Columbus, we created a lot of chances. You expect to concede because of the team and the players they have on the squad. But I think we gave them a good game, we created enough chances that we didn’t take and I think that was what was missing in our game plan.”
Clearly, Columbus aren’t going to make it easy for NYCFC to create opportunities in the second leg on Sunday (5 pm ET; ESPN in the US | TSN1, TVAS in Canada). Vieira fully expects Crew SC to “sit back, have a deep block and go into a counterattack.”
That’s apparently counter to what Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter has said this week, saying his squad will come out aggressively in search of a road goal.
“We both have to wait and see what is going to happen,” Vieira said. “I think when you have three goals in advance like that, they’re going to be sitting down and waiting and go into the counterattack because they have the players to do it. We will see. We have our game plan and we’re going to be ready.”
Vieira backed goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who looked shaky in the opening leg, and said it’s incumbent on everyone who steps on the field to play to their full potential for NYCFC to have a shot.
Vieira also said he’s not yet made a decision on a replacement for suspended center back Alexander Callens, who played every minute of every game this year, but will miss the second leg due to a game-changing red card in the 52nd minute on Tuesday.
On Friday, Maxime Chanot trained off to the side and it would seem unlikely he’ll be ready to go come Sunday.
“I still have one more day to think about that,” Vieira said. “But I have different players who can play that position, I can play Ben [Sweat], I can play three at the back, I can play Ethan [White] because he’s got the pace for the counterattack. I have different options. I have to wait until tomorrow.”
Vieira and NYCFC have options, and they still have belief. To aid in the positive reinforcement, Vieira showed his team the video of last year’s regular season finale, a 4-1 win over Crew SC at Yankee Stadium.
“We have to build the belief that we can do it,” Vieira said. “The way we play the game, of course, we can concede as well. But we can score a lot of goals. When you look at our record, even last year, in games in general we are capable of doing it.”