New York City FC-D.C. United Preview

New York City FC’s winning streak has opened a discussion of playoff contention in its inaugural MLS season. If D.C. United’s winless run persists, the defending regular-season Eastern Conference champion could find itself talking about falling to the cut line.

NYCFC will try to win four straight matches for the first time Friday night at RFK Stadium, and doing so would get it within two points of the conference’s final postseason spot and bring it within five of stumbling United.

New York City (10-14-7) earned its best road result of the season with Saturday’s 2-1 win over Vancouver – three points that coach Jason Kreis’ club will take even if they came on a questionable stoppage-time penalty converted by David Villa.

There was nothing to argue about on Frank Lampard’s 29th-minute strike. The longtime Chelsea midfielder has two goals on the streak after the club lost his first four matches.

Villa’s penalty followed a controversial equalizing penalty in the 88th for the Whitecaps, and afterward he was looking forward rather than dwelling on the calls.

"Now we have to win the remaining three and hope that our rivals don’t win," Villa said. "… We have no other option. We have to win the next three games. Now we focus on D.C. United. We have to go there, another difficult place and win. And believe. Believe that if we win the three games, those 46 points can be enough to get in the playoffs."

NYCFC, which also won three straight June 6-20, needs to make up five points on Montreal, six on Toronto or eight on D.C with Orlando City a point ahead in seventh.

It figures to be difficult with remaining opponents United, Orlando and New England all ahead in the standings, but NYCFC is 3-1-1 against the group thus far.

It should help that the club’s European superstars are finally clicking. Lampard could be coming off his best MLS match, and Andrea Pirlo has three assists on the winning streak after the Italian playmaker managed two in his first eight.

Villa has scored in consecutive matches and netted the winner in a 3-1 victory over D.C. on Aug. 13. His 17 goals in his first MLS season rank third behind Columbus’ Kei Kamara (22) and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco (20).

United (13-12-6) hasn’t been the same since the loss at Yankee Stadium, spiraling into a 0-5-1 span while being outscored 13-3 as the only MLS team without a win in that time.

D.C. has dropped its last two after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat in Montreal marked its longest winless streak since a franchise-record 15 straight spanning 2013-14.

"We’re at a point now where you gotta do the job," coach Ben Olsen told the team’s official website. "And there are some other guys that can bring some life, or if I see something different that the game is going to need, I gotta start pulling those cards. Because what we’re doing isn’t working – and when I say ‘what we’re doing,’ it’s them and me as a group."

Olsen’s club has three matches remaining and can’t yet be worried about falling from the playoff picture entirely with a seven-point cushion over Orlando, but it could easily fall to the sixth and final postseason spot. Toronto is two points back with a match in hand, while Montreal is three back with two in hand.