It was far from a banner year for New York City FC, although a banner at Yankee Stadium expressed the fans' hope after the expansion team's 3-1 season-finale loss to the New England Revolution yesterday:
"The best is yet to come."
City players hope so after a disappointing season in which they failed to reach the MLS playoffs despite boasting three high-profile and high-priced Designated Players on the team: David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
"It's great that the fans are saying that," Lampard said. "There are some places in the world that if you don't succeed, the fans let you know in different ways. We can only be thankful that the fans are behind us. Those words we can say now, but they mean nothing until we come back next year and actually do it."
NYC FC (10-17-7, 37 points) finished in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Revs (14-12-8, 50) clinched a playoff berth behind goals by Lee Nguyen (second minute), Charlie Davies (38th minute) and Kelyn Rowe (55th minute). Villa converted a penalty kick for City's only goal a minute into second-half stoppage time.
There is much work to be done in the offseason, although coach Jason Kreis doesn't plan to make wholesale changes.
"We know we need to get better," he said. "We know we need to strengthen certain areas. There will be some changes. There will be some improvement because of the amount of time spent together, because we won't be adding players in the summer. We'll have them in the very beginning in the preseason."
Left back and Babylon native Chris Wingert appears to be one of those players who will return. "His performance over the season has been similar to the team," Kreis said. "It's been good and there's been bad. But I think he is an important veteran part of the team that we could look to build around going forward."
Wingert, 33, a 12-year MLS veteran, said he wants to return "very, very badly."
He sees a bright light at the end of the tunnel. "I am desperate to come back to continue to move forward with this group," he said. "We don't feel like we're far away from turning the corner and producing some great soccer and a lot of wins."
Red Bulls beat Chicago
The visiting Red Bulls ended their regular season with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan scored. The Red Bulls earned the MLS Supporters' Shield for best record and are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. -- AP