Sorry, friends. I’ve been out of town for most of the last month and I have not been watching as much soccer as is my wish. What I’ve been telling myself as I watched from afar was that we don’t play well against a low block and then LAFC are really, really good. Add in some injuries, and it’s been a rough month. But I’m back. And it’s time to take a swing at the champs.
Currently, third in the Eastern Conference, the 2021 MLS Cup champions enter the match with 32 points and a record of 9W-4L-5D. Led by current Golden Boot leader Taty Castellanos and interim head coach Nick Cushing (Ronny Deila left for Belgian side Standard Liege) the team seems to be limping along for the last few weeks. Castellanos wants to head to Europe and maybe that ongoing drama is distracting. Or maybe it’s that Deila left. City was blown out in the U.S. Open Cup by the Red Bulls which gives the Pigeons the additional disadvantage of an extra mid-week game to increase the physical mileage on legs that already saw extra wear-and-tear during the CCL run and the mental struggle to remain focused throughout the long season.
|19 June||New York City||1-1||Colorado|
|22 June USOC||New York Red Bull||3-0||New York City|
|26 Jun||Philadelphia||2-1||New York City|
|29 June||Cincinnati||4-4||New York City|
|3 July||New York City||2-2||Atlanta|
|9 July||New York City||4-2||New England|
The first item that stands out to me (because I’ve watched FC Dallas ship so many goals lately) is that City has given up eleven goals in their last five MLS games (and three more in their cup loss). They also gave up leads against Atlanta and Cincinnati. The squad is 2-3-2 overall away from the narrow confines of Yankee stadium, so it could be that Dallas have caught the champs at a good time given our own heavy legs of late. In fact, given that they have a rematch against Red Bull on Sunday, they may attempt to rotate some players.
The win against New England on Saturday was the first of the Nick Cushing era. The headline for the match was the three PKs conceded by the Revs in the first half (New England center back Henry Kessler vehemently disagreed with the second call, but he did set an obvious moving screen rather than make any attempt to appear to play the ball), so City got some help in that one (although they did miss that second PK). But playing in Yankee stadium, City pushes their fullbacks into midfield and controls the middle of the pitch – the field is simply so narrow that there are no passing lanes to play through. On a wider pitch, NYC’s mid-block doesn’t fair as well because suddenly there are passing lanes and the two central defenders are exposed. Hence, Cincinnati repeatedly ran right through them – they finished with four goals, but Cincinnati could have easily ended that match with seven or more with a bit more luck here or there.
If the Pigeons maintain recent form, I expect a wide-open affair in which New York keeps their foot on the gas and presses repeatedly on the attack. However, if they try that approach, they may find themselves with heat exhaustion in the opening twenty minutes, so we’ll see. But the Pigeons are prone to pushing players forward in numbers. When the ball is recovered in midfield, it almost immediately moves to the wing and is then crossed into the box to the central forward or late arriving midfielders or even center backs – keep an eye on Callans.
Player Notes for NYCFC:
- Taty Castellanos – we all know (because we’re watching where Jesus is ranked) that Taty is leading the league with 12 goals – five in his last three matches. However, I expect that given his minutes on Saturday plus the upcoming match with Red Bulls the 23-year-old Argentine may be reserved for a late-game sub appearance.
- Heber – Instead of Taty, I expect to see Heber. The Brazilian has four goals in 374 minutes – mostly off the bench but he does have three starts.
- Talles Magno – NYCFC’s Young DP turned 20 about two weeks ago. The Brazilian has chipped in five goals and has suffered almost as many fouls Paxton – many of them in opportune areas for free kicks. If you haven’t seen him play much, he’s worth watching and he probably won’t be in MLS too much longer.
Line-Up Prediction: 4-2-3-1
Talles Magno – Maxi Morales – Pereira
Acevedo A. Morales
Amundson – Callans – Martin – Gray
8:00 PM at Toyota Stadium in Friso
Temperature: Hot. Or in Robin’s words.... On the upside, given that the match begins at 8:00, as Dienekes said, “... we will fight in the shade.”