Minnesota United hit the Big Apple for the first time on Thursday night.
Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five things to look out for in the BX…
A Form Team
There’s no question that NYCFC are hitting some serious form going into what looks like a compelling July.
With games against the top two in the conference coming up fast, the team has a chance to make it four wins on the bounce when Minnesota arrive for this midweek matchup.
If Patrick Vieira’s side can do it, it will be just the second time in club history that we’ve managed to win four successive games and the first time in almost exactly a year.
It was July 6, 2016 when NYCFC last tasted victory for a fourth game in a row after inflicting a 1-0 defeat on the Revs.
While it’s still a little early to be talking about MLS Playoffs, there’s no question we seem to be hitting form at a good time in the season.
Compare and Contrast
The picture is even more encouraging when you compare and contrast our progress so far in 2017 to our previous two seasons.
We’ve already reached the 30 point mark through 17 games which is two weeks earlier than 2016 and 12 weeks sooner than our inaugural campaign.
NYCFC have also scored four more goals than we’d notched at this stage last year and 13 more than we had after 17 games in 2015.
It’s equally sunny when you look at goals conceded: we’ve let 20 in so far in 2017 which is 11 fewer than at this stage in 2016 and two fewer than 2015.
Trending up, no question!
More Crazy Good Stats
You can prove anything with stats, so they say… but some of the numbers certainly seem to back up what we’re seeing with our eyes anecdotally.
For example, Alex Ring already seems to be a fan favorite thanks to his dynamic performances in the center of the midfield and so it’s no surprise to see him topping the league for tackles with 71 – that’s 12 more than his nearest challenger… in the whole league!
Additionally, only two defenders in the league have more assists than Ben Sweat’s three.
We’ve written plenty on Jack Harrison’s hugely impressive sophomore season but after another brilliant performance against Red Bulls, we’ll leave the superlatives to one side and just focus on the numbers.
Jack has almost doubled his goals per 90 mins average in 2017, going from 0.23 to 0.45 – almost a goal every two games, scoring three in his last five appearances to put him fourth on the all-time franchise top scorers list.
The stats also back up that NYCFC are a better team with Harrison on the field… Vieira’s men win 57.6% of their games with Jack, a win ratio which drops to 27.8% when Jack isn’t there.
Sean Johnson’s 100% attendance record comes to an end on Thursday night due to his participation in the USMNT pre-Gold Cup training camp.
That means opportunity is likely to knock for Eirik Johansen, the Norwegian stopper who was last seen in competitive action during the MLS Playoffs at the end of 2016.
While that two-legged clash with Toronto didn’t work out the way we might have hoped, Eirik was not culpable in the defeat and he’ll be eager to show exactly what he can do over the next two games which Johnson will definitely miss.
As documented above, NYCFC’s defense is stronger than it’s ever been when it comes to goals conceded and so whoever starts in goal on Thursday should be better protected than the goalkeeper was in that MLS Cup semifinal defeat.