All roads lead to the Bronx…
Our one-two punch of top-of-the-Conference clashes concludes on Saturday with the visit of Chicago Fire.
Here’s Managing Editor Mark Booth with his Major Keys to the Match…
For the second game in a row, NYCFC hosts the team directly above them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Chicago Fire have enjoyed a remarkable first half of 2017, inspired by new DP signings Nemanja Nikolic and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
There’s a real sense that Veljko Paunović has now built a side in his image and they are sure to provide NYCFC with a stiff examination of their mettle when the teams lock horns for the sixth time.
Chicago’s road form (2-3-4) isn’t quite on the same level as what they’ve put up at Toyota Park (9-0-1) this year but they’re unbeaten in 11 MLS games and four road matches for a reason.
Their last loss came in New Jersey to the Red Bulls in April – can NYCFC inflict a fourth loss of the campaign at Yankee Stadium? It’s going to be tough but the Boys in Blue will be eager to shake off that last minute equalizer against Toronto FC on Wednesday night in style.
Of course, the meeting of David Villa and Schweinsteiger will dominate the narrative leading into the game as fans will flock to the Bronx to see World Cup winning legends go toe to toe.
According to MLSSoccer.com, Chicago’s German midfielder is rated as questionable for this one but, perhaps the showdown between Villa and Nikolic could be the most decisive in this game.
The two leading marksmen in MLS have 29 goals between them in 2017 and it could come down to which of the pair is more clinical on what’s likely to be a sweltering Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.
NYCFC leads the head-to-head with Chicago through two seasons of play and five games.
Saturday’s visitors have only inflicted defeat on their hosts on one occasion... since losing our first-ever meeting against the Fire, we’ve gone 2W-2D, outscoring Chicago 10-6 in those matches.
What happens on Saturday? Well, with Chicago unbeaten since April and with NYCFC defeated only once at home in a year of Regular Season play, something has got to give.
NYCFC’s Injury Report made for grim reading today as five first-teamers have been officially ruled out of this clash: Miguel Camargo, Ronald Matarrita, James Sands, Khiry Shelton, and Rodney Wallace.
Camargo will miss the rest of the season with the hip injury he sustained on international duty which is a bitter blow for the Panamanian who had been expected to play a bigger role for the team following his excellent performances in the CONCACAF competition.
Rodney Wallace’s adductor strain is another area of concern for Patrick Vieira who would have been looking forward to getting the Costa Rican back in his XI at the first available opportunity.
However, when one door closes, others open and there could be opportunities for players who haven’t seen a lot of action in recent weeks to come in and show what they can do.
NYCFC might not have closed out the comeback win over Toronto on Wednesday but they did recover from a deficit to take points for the fourth time in a row at Yankee Stadium.
Vieira will not be pleased that his team gave away the opening goal yet again in that game but he was heartened by the powers of recovery demonstrated by his team, leaving no question marks against the character his squad possesses in spades.
Any Head Coach in the league would always rather take the lead than chase from behind and so Patrick will surely be urging his players to seize the initiative in this mouthwatering clash ahead.
We finish with a telling Opta stat…
In 340 minutes with Alex Ring, Yangel Herrera and Maxi Morales on the field at the same time this year, NYCFC are averaging 2.6 goals and 1.1 conceded per 90 minutes played.
In the 1,570 minutes where at least one of those three players hasn’t been on the field, those numbers fall down to 1.6 goals per 90 and 1.3 conceded.
With all three fit for Saturday’s game, NYCFC goes into the game hoping for a big win to launch us into the MLS Playoffs run-in ahead.