Week 26 of the MLS NEXT Pro season is finally here and Decision Day is upon us. The Western Conference playoff teams have been settled, but seeding is still up for grabs going into the final day. The Eastern Conference, however, still has five teams competing for three playoff spots on the final day of the regular season. Columbus Crew 2 have clinched the top overall seed in the East, but RNY FC, Toronto FC II, Philadelphia Union II, Inter Miami II and NYCFC II can all clinch a spot this weekend through various scenarios and results.
Enter the Eastern installment of Week 26's MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week: RNY FC hosts NYCFC II in a clash between two playoff hopefuls, and nothing whatsoever is set to be guaranteed.
This and every match will be available to stream live on MLSNEXTPro.com.
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RNY FC come into Sunday’s contest on a three-match win streak and actively hold the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference with 39 points. They are coming off of an impressive Week 25 performance that saw them claim three points in a 1-0 win over TFC II.
RNY FC dropped points in their home meeting against NYCFC II early in the campaign, but will look to exact revenge in this meeting as they look to secure their spot in the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs.
Gibran Rayo, forward - Rayo leads the team in scoring with 12 goals on the season and is an active threat across the final third. He leads the team with an 82.2 passing percentage as well.
Pedro Dolabella, midfielder - Dolabella has four goals and five assists this season, leading the team in the latter category.
Gerardo Lopez, defender - The RNY FC defender has featured in 22 games for his club this season and leads the team in passing percentage at 86.7 percent. He’s an important centerpiece to the composure of their back line, who have only conceded 28 goals this season – the second least across the Eastern Conference.
One of the most compelling sides throughout the first 18 weeks of the regular season, NYCFC II was looking at the top of the overall standings for an end-of-season goal. However, an eight-match winless skid from July 10 to September 14 tempered top-of-the-table thoughts.
Last week's 4-0 win FCC2 kept NYCFC II's playoff hopes alive, however, as they now sit just two points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (which is currently occupied by Union II). They sit sixth in the Eastern Conference going into Sunday’s contest with 35 points.
The two sides have met twice this campaign already, with the first match ending 3-2 in favor of NYCFC II while the second contest ended 1-0 with RNY FC taking all three points. The third and final meeting of the season between the Empire State rivals is by far the highest-stakes meeting on Decision Day.
Jonathan Jimenez, forward - Jimenez scored a brace in Week 25, helping NYCFC II to a 4-0 victory over FC Cincinnati 2. Jimenez has nine goals on the season.
John Denis, forward - Denis was a leading candidate for the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot award midway through the campaign but missed all of August for his side. He made his return to the team in Week 25 coming off the bench. If Denis is at all able to play Sunday, he will be a threat. He has 13 goals on the year in 17 appearances.
Nicholas Benalcazar, defender - The 21-year-old NYCFC homegrown product has played 20 games for NYCFC II this season as a defender and leads his team in passing with a staggering 92.1 passing percentage.