NYCFC return to Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon aiming to secure a second win of the 2017 MLS season.
San Jose Earthquakes stand in the way but where will the game be won and lost? NYCFC.com Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out six Major Keys to the match…
Back from the Break
The first international break of the season has come and gone which means it’s all MLS as far as they eye can see… well, until June at least.
While there’s no substitute for games in terms for a Head Coach discovering how much his methods are taking hold, for this new group perhaps a two-week pause with the majority of his squad will have been welcome.
The team did take part in a behind-closed-doors scrimmage at the training ground in the break to try and stay sharp, so hopefully NYCFC will explode out of the blocks on Saturday afternoon.
Ring of Fire
Head Coach Patrick Vieira cited the San Jose central midfield area as one of the strongest departments our visitors have in their armory going into this fourth game of the season.
That means that Alex Ring could be a key figure for the home side on Etihad Pitch as he looks to continue his excellent start in blue.
Ring has won 15 tackles this season, six more than any of his teammates and only two MLS players have more after three matches.
The Finnish international midfielder, said: “We want to concentrate on ourselves – I don’t think we have the amount of points we deserve. We’ve been playing well, so now it’s important to get the results for the good games we’ve been having.”
Home, Sweet Home
NYCFC are still defending a proud Regular Season home record following the tie with Montreal Impact last time out.
Dating back to 2016, Patrick Vieira’s side are unbeaten in ten games at Yankee Stadium, outscoring opponents 29-10 over the course of those eight wins and two draws.
Turning our home field into something of a fortress was the key to reaching the MLS Playoffs last season and it will be just as crucial this year, especially seeing as NYCFC go on the road twice in the upcoming games against DC and Philadelphia Union following this clash.
In Good Health
NYCFC are nearing a clean bill of health after sustaining no new injury concerns in the international break.
Kwame Awuah, Maxime Chanot, Yangel Herrera, Ronald Matarrita, Alex Ring and Rodney Wallace all took off to represent their nations during the break and have returned intact and in contention to play against San Jose.
Their Head Coach will also not be too disappointed that the likes of Chanot, Matarrita, Ring and Wallace return without having played full parts in the second of the two rounds of games for their countries.
Only Mikey Lopez is out for Saturday’s game but the midfielder is nearing a return after his ankle surgery in the offseason.
San Jose endured a slightly disappointing 2016 campaign but they gave the best-possible answer to this in the first two games of 2017.
They faced Canadian opposition in their first two encounters, defeating Montreal Impact 1-0 and Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 on home soil.
Only a defeat in Kansas to Sporting KC last time out stymied their early progress and hinted that they troubles on the road may have carried over from the previous campaign.
San Jose have lost 12 of their last 20 away games – a record they’ll be hoping to improve when they arrive in New York for Saturday’s showdown.
Raise the Roof
On home advantage, Patrick Vieira and Sean Johnson have both spoken on the importance of making it count on Saturday.
Fans braved the arctic conditions for the games against DC and Montreal but it promises to be a lot warmer in the Bronx for San Jose’s visit.
Vieira said: “It’s going to be really important for people to come to the stadium and to be behind the team. We’re playing for them, so it’s important for them to come and show their love for the team.”
These sentiments were echoed by Johnson, who told NYCFC.com: “It’s been excellent having support at the two games so far, especially with the way the weather has been. The fans are a huge, huge plus when we’re looking to press on and get victories at home.”