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Will Small Pitch at Yankee Stadium Affect Orlando City vs. NYCFC?

At Yankee Stadium, NYCFC plays on Major League Soccer's smallest pitch. Will the dimensions of the field have much of an effect on the outcome of Sunday's match?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Orlando City, New York City FC is not playing in a soccer specific stadium in its inaugural year in MLS. Unlike the Lions, however, NYCFC is playing in a stadium built specifically for baseball, making things a bit trickier when it comes to hosting soccer matches.

The historic confines of Yankee Stadium are just large enough to host the city's first-year soccer club's matches on a 110-by-70-yard pitch, which are the minimum dimensions allowed under FIFA rules. In addition to rustling the jimmies of some Yanks outfielders and inciting a 'turf war' earlier in the year, NYCFC's invasion of Yankee Stadium has created an issue for visiting teams who must acclimate to playing on such a narrow pitch.

But will the size of the field inside Yankee Stadium have a noticeable effect on Sunday's match between OCSC and NYCFC?

In theory, teams that prefer to play an expansive style – as Adrian Heath's squad does – are confined by smaller pitches. The exploitation of space is fundamental to attacking, but the difference in size between the pitch in NYC and Orlando is not vast and should not have a huge impact on the style of play we see from Orlando this weekend.

The Lions already play on one of the five smallest pitches in MLS, with the 114-by-74 yard Citrus Bowl turf only being the 16th largest in the league. Only Providence Park, RFK Stadium and BBVA Compass Stadium separate Yankee Stadium and the Citrus Bowl in the pecking order of the league's smallest playing surfaces.

If either team want to come out on Sunday and defend in a low block, the smaller dimensions will play to their benefit to some extent. While the differences in the dimensions of the two teams' fields represent small variations, the more compact space at Yankee Stadium would make it easier – if only slightly – for NYC to play the way it did in the first meeting between these two teams on March 8.

In the season-opening clash between these two squads, NYCFC (right) was the less expansive side, playing more narrow through the midfield and averaging a deeper field position than that of Orlando (left). City's midfield trio of Lewis NealKaká and Kevin Molino played wider than NYC's midfield foursome of Ned Grabavoy, Mix Diskerud, Andrew Jacobson and Mehdi Ballouchy, while Lions fullbacks Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos out-flanked Jeb Brovsky and Josh Williams going up the field.

Orlando City was the more aggressive side in the eventual 1-1 draw, owning the advantage in shots, shots on goal, possession and passing accuracy.

A similarly played match this Sunday could be affected by the narrow pitch in New York, but not too significantly. Orlando is able to cycle the ball using short passes through the midfield, and the difference between Yankee Stadium's field and the Citrus Bowl's is much smaller than that of Saputo Stadium in Montréal or Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado, which feature the largest pitch dimensions in MLS.

If the middle of the pitch is clogged on Sunday and the ball is forced out wide, it wouldn't be the first time the Lions have had to deal with such a scenario in 2015, given opposing teams' intent of stopping Kaká in the center of the park. The small pitch won't make things any easier for Orlando on Sunday, but we shouldn't expect it to have a large impact on the outcome of the contest.