New York City FC arrived in Chicago yesterday looking to complete this final road trip of the season with six points.
Presented by Ford, Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five Major Keys to the Match.
The Big One
The Frenchman was delighted with everything he saw from his team up until the final third where he felt NYC were a little guilty of being wasteful in front of goal.
There’s no margin for error with both Chicago and Atlanta United snapping at our heels, so it’s imperative that we string together these victories to keep the chasing pack at bay.
With just three games remaining, we’re all set for an exciting conclusion to the Regular Season and, on paper, this is our toughest assignment remaining.
A must-win for both sides, everything will be left out on the field.
Bring. It. On.
Vieira has several difficult decisions to make when it comes to selecting his team.
Yangel Herrera and Ronald Matarrita racked up some important minutes on their comebacks from injury and looked good considering how long they’ve both been missing, while David Villa looked ready to seize back the initiative in the Golden Boot race in his explosive cameo.
With two games in such a short space of time and the travel, you might expect Patrick to make some changes to keep things fresh even though the XI he selected certainly did not disappoint.
In our Five Things column from Montreal, we looked at the impact of the competition for places we’re seeing now big players are returning from injuries – this unpredictability will keep The Fire (and the rest of us) guessing right until the teamsheets are exchanged an hour before kick-off.
Following seven seasons on the roster in Illinois, Sean Johnson returns in opposition colors for the very first time on Saturday night.
He’s sure to receive a warm welcome from the fans who used to count upon “the Milkman” to deliver but don’t expect this friendliness to last too long if Sean keeps up his recent form...
Johnson has barely put a foot (or hand) wrong all season long at NYCFC and is pushing hard for a USMNT recall thanks to a long run of excellent performances.
Charged with keeping out the free-scoring Nemanja Nikolic, Johnson will need to be at his best at a stadium he knows oh-so well.
History doesn't count for much at the business end of the season but it would be remiss not to mention our solid recent run against The Fire.
NYCFC are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Saturday's opponents (W3, D2) and average 2.4 goals per game over that period of time.
That said, Chicago snapped a three-game winless streak emphatically with a 3-0 victory over DC United in their last game at Toyota Park and racked up another big win in San Jose on Wednesday, so Veljko Paunovic's side will be feeling confident themselves.
… and Finally.
Just to equip you with some pre-match confidence…
Only Toronto have won more games on the road than NYCFC’s six and we're also unbeaten in four away games (W2, D2), conceding just two goals in that time.
Our tally of 16 wins and 55 points are both good for club records in our three years of play – stats that only get more impressive when you consider just how extraordinarily competitive this Eastern Conference campaign has been.
Toronto’s consistent excellence and Atlanta’s late season charge in their new stadium have grabbed all the headlines but it’s worth remembering that we’ve been right up there all season long.
A second place finish and the bye is the target now for what has already been a remarkable year... and it's one which could get even better as we enter the postseason!
Exciting times, indeed.