Looking to keep momentum rolling entering the final two weeks of the MLS regular season, New York City FC takes to the road to face Club Necaxa from Liga MX in a friendly at Estadio Victoria Friday at 9:30 p.m ET.
The game, which will be broadcast live by YES Network, is being played during Major League Soccer’s international break.
NYCFC is currently level on points with the New York Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference, each with 51 points and identical 14-9-9 records.
The top two teams in each conference earn a bye into the two-legged conference semifinals.
“We need to grow our brand. NYCFC is young. We play in Mexico and Mexico is a good country for soccer obviously,” NYCFC captain David Villa said. “The people in Aguascalientes are excited to see NYCFC and we need to be professional, to work strong on Friday to give the Mexican supporters a good presence of NYCFC and growing our brand outside of the United States.”
NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said he will field a strong roster for the friendly, a combination of regular starters in a good rhythm and others who have trained well and need playing time.
“It will be a mix of players who have been playing really well and I don’t want to break that momentum,” Vieira said. “They need to play every week and I’ll give a chance to the players who have been working really well the last few weeks who deserve to play some games.”
Vieira singled out Diego Martinez, Mehdi Ballouchy and Federico Bravo as three of those players who have earned minutes against Necaxa.
“They have to show me that they deserve to play,” Vieira said. “They have to make it difficult for me. They will have the opportunity to play and they will have to take it.”
Vieira said Khiry Shelton, who has one goal and five assists in his last five games, will be in his starting XI.
“Khiry will start the game. He will play because I don’t want to break that momentum,” Vieira said. “It’s important for those players who are in a really good momentum to keep going.”
Necaxa is currently eighth in the Liga MX Apertura standings with 16 points from 12 matches, 11 points off the pace set by Club Tijuana. Los Rayos is coming off a 3-1 win over Toluca on Saturday.
Fabian Espindola, who played for Real Salt Lake, the Red Bulls and D.C. United, Jesus Isijara and Edson Puch scored first-half goals for Necaxa in the victory.
NYCFC returns to MLS play next Sunday to take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium before hosting Columbus Crew SC in the regular season finale at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 23. Get your tickets for the last home match here!