October 2, 2016
They could become New York soccer legends of the fall
By Michael Lewis
We could be seeing this in the MLS playoffs: NYC FC center back Frederic Brillant vs. Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Adam Hunger/USA Today
Whether you root for the Red Bulls (or Red Bulls II), chant for New York City FC, support the Cosmos or just love soccer in general, you have to admit we are on the verge of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, autumns in metropolitan area history.
Barring a collapse of historical and monumental proportions by the Cosmos, all three professional teams will be in the playoffs.
Moreover, all three franchises have positioned themselves not only to perform in the postseason, but to live long and prosper, to borrow a line from a logical person, there as well.
Let's start with the Major League Soccer clubs.
New York and New York City are neck and neck as the Eastern Conference race narrows down to a pair of matches.
The Red Bulls and the Blues own 14-9-9 records and 51 points apiece, although the New Jersey-based side is the conference leader thanks to superior goal differential (14 to 4). Remember the Red Bulls' 7-0 thrashing of City on May 21? That plays into the 10-goal difference big time.
Now, imagine if both teams win out and finish one-two. They would avoid that dreaded mid-week opening playoff game and set themselves up for an Eastern Conference final series that potentially would be one of the greatest two-game confrontations in the league's 21-year history.
Of course, without putting any horses in front of any carts, both teams would have to get past some serious foes in the conference semifinals.
But we can dream, can't we?
As Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch stated last week about the potential of a red vs. blues playoff series:
"It would be electric. It would be incredible."
Added goalkeeper Luis Robles:
"I know Major League Soccer would like that. New York City FC would like that and we absolutely would love the opportunity to face them in the playoffs. Not only would it continue to build the brand of within the New York City metro area, it would be great for Major League Soccer in general.
"Not only would the audience be treated to some fantastic soccer, but a very intense environment here at Red Bull Arena, and then across the river in the city."
Could not have said it better myself.
The Cosmos need a win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Shuart Stadium today at 4 p.m. to secure their fourth consecutive North American Soccer League playoff berth since returning to competitive action in 2013. Reaching the postseason is only the first step in what they want to accomplish. They have won two Soccer Bowl titles since then and hope to repeat this year.
If they can secure home-field advantage in the semifinals and final -- the team is still looking for a potential home field for the weekend of Nov. 12-13 -- the Cosmos will have more than a decent chance of parading around with yet another trophy.
And who knows? If the Red Bulls and NYC FC can survive their conference battles, they could be vying for the Philip F. Anschutz trophy in the MLS Cup come Dec. 10.
And then there's Red Bulls II, who start their USL playoff journey against Orlando City B today after busting several league records during the regular season.
Now, how fabulous would that be?
Three championship teams from the same area.
Yeah, there are many obstacles on the MLS rollercoaster ahead, but a few words of advice to whatever color you prefer to wear: red, blue, green or something neutral:
Just enjoy the ride.
I certainly will.
After all, it could be a long time before we have soccer autumn like this in the New York-New Jersey area anytime soon.