Playoff games have been scarce around these parts of late.
New York sports have been largely devoid of them for the past year.
The Yankees failed to make it past the ALDS in an 11th failed run at a World Series title since their last one in 2009. The Islanders teased, advancing to the Eastern Conference final before bowing out in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. The Nets were one-and-done in the NBA’s playoff bubble.
The other six of the nine major sports franchises — you know who you are Giants, Jets, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Devils — didn’t even make it past the regular season.
On Saturday, New York gets two playoff games in one day, with both NYCFC and the Red Bulls beginning the respective bids at delivering a first MLS Cup to their supporters.
NYCFC, the fifth-seed that finished 12-8-3 in the regular season, travel to No. 4 Orlando (11-4-8) to play at noon.
The 9-9-5 Red Bulls, the sixth seed, play at No. 3 Columbus (12-6-5) at 3 p.m.
Both are first-round, single elimination matches.
NYCFC have reached the Eastern Conference semifinal round in each of the past two seasons and failed to advance to the final — eliminated last year by Toronto FC and the year before at the hands of Atlanta United.
For all of its recent playoff baggage, though, NYCFC enters this postseason with the momentum of a four-match winning streak.
The Red Bulls, too, enter the postseason having played their best soccer in the last month, going 3-1-3 in their final seven regular-season matches.
So, there’s some hope.
The Red Bulls’ best hope may ride on the right foot of Flemington, N.J., native Brian White, who has scored four goals in the past five matches, including two dramatic game-tying tallies in extra time.
In consecutive matches that may have ignited the Red Bulls for a postseason run, White helped salvage a 2-2 draw against Chicago with a goal two minutes into injury time, and he did it again in a 1-1 draw at Orlando City, scoring the equalizer five minutes into extra time.
Though he said he feels like he’s been in a “good groove scoring goals,’’ White knows they’ll be harder to come by in the playoffs.
“There’s more on the line, so everything is amped up a little bit more than the regular season,’’ White told The Post. “There’s something tangible at the end of this game, win or lose, so everything is a little bit more intense and a little bit harder to pull off.’’
If the Red Bulls are to pull off the upset Saturday, they will be doing it with a new head coach, Gerhard Struber, who’ll be on the RBNY sideline for the first time. He replaces interim coach Bradley Carnell, who remains on the staff as an assistant.
Struber, who’s Austrian, comes to RBNY after a 13-year playing career, mostly in the Austrian Bundesliga, and head-coaching roles at Barnsley FC and Wolfsberger FC.
It’s unorthodox timing, we live in a COVID-19 world where it seems everything is unorthodox.
“The last few days, the team showed me they are ready for a good fight on Saturday and ready to bring a good performance,’’ Struber said. “I took over a team in a very good mood and [with] a good energy. Columbus is a massive opponent. We have to bring a performance possibly out of our comfort zone to make the next step.’’
The primary “zone’’ NYCFC want to get out of is the playoff disappointment it has experienced with much of the same roster the past two seasons.
“I think we’re in a better position to succeed this year,’’ NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, one of the veteran team leaders, said this week.
“We can beat anybody,’’ NYCFC first-year coach Ronny Deila said. “We just need to attack the occasion and really enjoy it.’’
For New York sports fans, even if soccer isn’t necessarily your thing and you have no dog in the fight in either of these Saturday matches, you at least have the chance to watch sporting events with playoff consequence.
It’s something we haven’t had much of around here.
#NYCFC #Red #Bulls #giving #York #playoff #games #day
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