NEW YORK — For New York City FC head coach Dome Torrent, the path to advancing to the Eastern Conference Championship is as simple as it can get for his team, if not particularly easy.
A win in the second leg against Atlanta United Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN, TVAS, TSN) does the trick.
“We don’t need to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-1, no we need to win,” he said Sunday night after his team's 1-0 loss in the first leg at Yankee Stadium. “If we win at least 1-0, it’s extra time. But if you score two, you’re in the [Eastern Conference Championship].”
Of course, that’s easier said than done for a team that won just four of their 17 road games during the regular season. But for goalkeeper Sean Johnson, the team’s struggles on the road in the past belong just there — in the past.
“We know what we have to do and nothing really matters from the past going forward now,” he said. “I think it’s really down to the belief in the group and I think we’ve had a little bit more belief about us in the last couple of games. And even tonight in the second half we came out and tried to take the game to them. We’re not really going to be looking too much into our struggles in the past leading up to this game in Atlanta. For us, we’re just going to treat it like a final.”
Although they didn’t manage to put one of their eight shots on frame in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, NYCFC believe their second-half performance Sunday night is something that can perhaps carry over to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Midfielder Alex Ring believes the tight dimensions of the Yankee Stadium pitch actually played to Atlanta’s advantage. Now the scene shifts to a venue Atlanta has thrived in, going 11-2-4 at the Benz this year.
One of those four draws was a 2-2 stalemate against NYCFC on April 15.
“We’ve played there before. We know we can score goals there. I’m not worried,” Ring said. “Like I said, playoffs is what you’ve been working for all year and I’m sure we’ll bring our A-game when we show up there.”
The task is simple, even if the execution could be difficult. NYCFC will have to win on the road for the first time since a 3-2 win over Toronto FC on Aug. 12 to avoid losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third consecutive year.
“What happened before the playoffs I honestly don’t give a [crap],” Ring said. “If you’re not ready and you have a mental blockage in the playoffs because you’re playing away then you’re playing the wrong sport.”
Added Torrent: “We have a chance in Atlanta. The result [tonight] is not good, absolutely. But we need to win.”