For New York City FC it's simple: defeat Columbus Crew SC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in the regular season finale and secure second in the Eastern Conference and a bye into its first postseason appearance.
"I think what is really important is to put our focus on Columbus because it's important for us to finish second, so I don't think about the playoffs yet," NYC coach Patrick Vieira told the team's website.
New York City (14-10-9) could finish in a tie with the rival New York Red Bulls at 54 points atop the conference with a win and a Red Bulls loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. But the Red Bulls hold a virtually insurmountable 13-goal margin over NYC in the goal differential tiebreaker and would take the top seed.
It's the team behind NYC that is proving more worrisome.
A tie or loss to the Crew (8-13-12) would allow Toronto FC to claim second if it defeats Chicago at home on Sunday. If that happens, NYC would fall into a knockout match to advance to the conference semifinals.
A season ago it was Columbus that needed points to secure second place in the last game, and it got them before reaching the MLS Cup final, so Crew coach Gregg Berhalter knows what to expect from NYC.
"They're going to be fired up and ready to go and it's going to be a very difficult game for us," he said.
NYC's David Villa has 22 goals to place second for the Golden Boot, a goal behind the Red Bulls' Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored twice vs. the Crew in a 3-2 win on Oct. 16.
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