After a much-needed respite, New York City FC is about to embark on a four-match stretch over the course of two weeks.
Major League Soccer’s newest club played their first four matches once per week. Beginning on Saturday in Philadelphia, the Club opens their toughest stretch in their early inaugural season. New York City FC hosts the Union on April 16 at Yankee Stadium and welcomes the Portland Timbers three days later. The Club then travels to Chicago on April 24 to conclude the month.
Head coach Jason Kreis said setting the tone early with a victory over Philadelphia at PPL Park would give the Club momentum during the upcoming run of matches.
“It would be really good,” he said. “Our last match against Sporting KC was a loss. Ideally you’d like to be part of a team that never loses two games in a row. Tomorrow we need to get out there and give a really strong performance and do our best to improve upon our last time out.”
Kickoff of the Eastern Conference match-up is 4 p.m. ET. The match can be viewed live on Fox Sports GO app (iOS, Android) and on tape delay on YES Network at 5 p.m. following coverage of the Yankees and Red Sox. It will also be broadcast on 970 AM and 92.7 WQBU.
Both clubs come into the contest having lost to Sporting Kansas City in their most recent matches. New York City FC (1-1-2; 5 points) lost 1-0 to Sporting KC on March 28. A week later, the 2013 MLS Cup Champions scored two goals in extra time to defeat Philadelphia (0-3-2; 2 points) 3-2.
“Philadelphia doesn’t have a win yet, but they deserved two wins,” Kreis said. “They were better than their opponents in two matches they played. One game they had an extremely poor call against them and the second game they got run over in extra time. For me they were the better team in both matches and they’re a better team than their record indicates. On top of that, they’re going to be extremely emotional about trying to get their first win at home.
“This is going to be an extremely difficult test for us.”
The bye week came at an ideal time for New York City FC. Captain David Villa, midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and defender Josh Williams were all sidelined on March 28 due to injury. Forwards Khiry Shelton and Adam Nemec were also absent due to international call ups.
Nemec, who started the first three matches for New York City FC, scored in Slovakia’s 3-0 Euro 2016 Qualifier victory over Luxembourg on March 27.
“Every goal for a striker is good,” he said, “so it should be helpful.”
While New York City FC is regaining players who were absent for prior matches, the Union are losing one of their starters.
Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin announced on Wednesday starting goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi was benched and given an indefinite leave of absence. John McCarthy, the 2014 USL Pro Goalkeeper of the Year, will start on Saturday.
Not surprisingly despite the Union changes, Kreis remains focused on his players and their improvement from match to match.
“It’s been six or seven training sessions since our last match,” he said. “The guys have worked extremely hard and they’ve looked quite good this week. I’m hopeful the training performances roll over to the match performances.”