Orlando City (6-3-2, 20 points) is now winless in four straight games (0-2-2) after a brilliant start to the 2017 season, but one could easily argue that three of those four matches could — and should — have been victories. Snapping the streak won’t be easy because New York City FC (5-4-2, 17 points). These teams always play tight, heart-stopping games.
New York City FC is a solid team that can both score and prevent scoring. The Sky Blues are second in the Eastern Conference in goals conceded (13, one fewer than Orlando City), and one goal off from the conference lead in goals scored, with 19 — five more than the Lions. David Villa is always a handful but Jack Harrison seems to be finding his scoring boots, finding the net four times since these two teams last met in late April.
Both teams are coming off long trips out west, with NYCFC falling to Real Salt Lake, 2-1, and Orlando City conceding an 83rd-minute equalizer to freakin’ Wondo at San Jose in a 1-1 draw.
Here to help us scout tomorrow’s opponents yet again is Jake Gofman from SB Nation’s New York City FC blog, Hudson River Blue. And if you want to see how I responded to their questions, you can head over to their place.
It's hard to believe these teams will wrap up a three-game season series before the end of May but here we are. How has New York City FC evolved as a team (in terms of tactics, shape, and preferred personnel) from the beginning of the season up to the game Wednesday night at Real Salt Lake?
Jake Gofman: Not sure how the schedule spit this out but so be it, three matches in 12 games against the same team. I would say the evolution of the side has been gradual but impactful. What I mean by that is the Vieira system remains the same, the team is, for the most part, the same as it was to start the season, and the shape has been consistent.
The changes that have been made are relatively small, but they've had a big effect on how NYC plays and also the results of their matches. The biggest change thus far has been the exclusion of Andrea Pirlo in recent weeks from the starting XI. While he started against RSL midweek, my takeaway is that there may be only a handful of times we see Pirlo start again for New York. In the several previous games leading up to RSL, Vieira made the move to put Yangel Herrera, CM and Man City loanee, in the Pirlo spot, and the results speak for themselves. The team has been more dynamic, the defending more consistent, and Herrera demonstrated that he is a player capable of covering acres of space, allowing Maxi to do his thing and Ring to facilitate more.
There have been other small tweaks here and there, but replacing Pirlo has been the most effective move employed so far by Vieira.
Both teams are coming back from the west to play Sunday's match. Both teams rotated personnel Wednesday night. Does either team have an advantage in terms of legs and rest for key players?
JG: In looking at Orlando's expected starting XI in comparison to the team fielded on Wednesday, it looks like Kreis and Vieira thought similarly in how they might approach the midweek game. Each manager sat two key defenders, a fullback and a center back, and four forward players. Each manager opted to sub in starters to try and get a result, each manager unsuccessful in that regard (although the Rivas sub paid dividends for Kreis, just only for a few minutes).
It looks to me like there won't be a significant advantage one way or another with how the rotations and substitutions went midweek. The offensive firepower in NYC (Villa, Harrison, Wallace) all sat, so they will be raring to go. The midfield in the diamond got a rest in Orlando though, and that should help the team keep position. I see this as a toss-up.
Orlando City is winless in four matches (0-2-2) but has played well in three of those games, and NYCFC has only won two of its last five. Which team seems more likely to get the W or is this going to be a draw?
JG: For sanity's sake, I really hope NYC because I can't take another Cyle Larin game winner. NYCFC's form has been really strong since the Orlando City match (when Pirlo was kicked to the curb), beating Columbus on the road, taking it to Atlanta at home, and gaining an excellent point against a scary good Dallas team on the road. Our RSL flop was in large part due to silly personnel changes that Vieira admitted to post-game.
Pirlo will almost certainly not be in the XI, but Herrera is on U-20 duty with Venezuela so that CM spot is open. Carmargo has been solid there, as has Tommy Mac, but Vieira may go more defense and side with Mikey Lopez. In any case, it would be nearly the same core team that had taken seven points from three games before RSL, so it ought to be a strong side.
I think we have the slight form advantage, but playing in Orlando Stadium might trigger PTSD for our boys. I sense a draw in the end.
What injuries/suspensions is the team dealing with? What is your projected lineup and score prediction?
JG: As mentioned, Yangel is on international duty, Ronald Matarrita remains sidelined with a high ankle sprain and Khiry Shelton is out with the hamstring problem. No suspensions.
Projected lineup: (4-3-3): Sean Johnson; Ben Sweat, Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Ethan White; Mikey Lopez, Maxi Moralez, Alexander Ring; Rodney Wallace, David Villa, Jack Harrison.
Final score: 2-2 and each team grabs a point.
Big thanks to Jake from Hudson River Blue for taking time to answer some questions about the Sky Blues ahead of Round 3.