As New York City FC makes its way to Gillette Stadium today (8 p.m., NBC Sports Boston) for its first visit since the Revolution clinched a spot in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, there are two things you really need to know about this edition of the Bronx Blues.
One, they really like to try and take advantage of the space afforded them in the back. If a defense is not aware of not only their own positioning and the quality off-the-ball runs by the Pigeons, it will — correction, strike that: should — be to their detriment.
Two, they are much like the Revs this season, in the respect that they are having difficulty in scoring goals.
Well, before this past weekend, that is: NYCFC scored three in a 3-1 win over Chicago at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, marking the first time since February and CONCACAF Champions League — a 5-3 win over Costa Rica’s A.D. San Carlos — play that the Bronx Blues have scored more than once in a 90-minute span.
Since then, New York City FC’s scoring totals more resemble binary code — 0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1, 3 — than anything else.
And like the Revolution, NYCFC has plenty of goal-scoring talent.
There’s Alexander Ring, who is dangerous in the midfield. He has scored a goal in each of the last two games to lead the club in scoring after eight matches: against the Fire, he wrapped up the three points with the third goal, taking Anton Tinnerholm’s cross from near the end line and depositing it into the back of the net, while he scored the lone goal in a 1-nil win over Columbus, taking advantage of a lazy pass out of the back from the Crew.
There’s also Alexandru Mitrita, who can dance with ease, the ball at his foot, who has the quality to test the opposition’s goalkeeper from that 20-25-yard distance. The Brazilian Héber, too, has skill.
And there’s also younger Keaton Parks, who put NYC ahead against Chicago with a neat off-the-ball run into space, one-timing the pass in. He made that run at the left center back side and made the goal look effortless.
Also effortless? The way NYCFC can switch the point of the attack. They can adjust that attack with ease.
But not only that, New England will need to be quick with clearances on Matt Turner’s ricochets, as NYC likes to crash the posts — again, that off-the-ball mentality — for a second-chance opportunity.
Yet unlike the Revolution, NYC’s defense is leaky. Chicago’s goal last weekend came on a set piece, with NYC ball-watching. Meanwhile, the Revs back line has been particularly stout, with the New York Red Bulls’ goal from Saturday night the first goal allowed from open play since Sergio Santos’ tally in the MLS IS BACK Tournament knockout round defeat on July 25/26. Before that, it was Federico Higuain’s goal off Antonio Delamea’s flub nine days earlier.
So the question needs asking: do we see see a parade of goals? Or do we see yet another low-scoring affair that helps extend New England’s unbeaten streak in the league to eight games?
Answers forthcoming later tonight.
We are expecting some semblance of squad turnover for the Revolution tonight, as the starting XI has been, with one exception, primarily the same since the league resumed play two weeks ago. That lone change, of course, was Diego Fagundez taking over for Kelyn Rowe over the weekend.
Revs head coach Bruce Arena noted earlier this week that “it’s not easy” to manage players’ fatigue with such a condensed list of fixtures.
“I think, as I said previously, once you hit games four and five there’s definitely a need to make some changes. So we’re going to anticipate making some changes.”
Tonight’s match is the fourth for New England since the league returned on Aug. 20 and is match No. 4 in the last 14 days, with match No. 5 slated for Sunday night.
ALSO IN THE LEAGUE
Last night saw Toronto FC taste defeat for the first time in league play this year with a 1-0 loss against Montreal. And outside of Revs-NYC tonight, there are 10 other tilts in MLS to be aware of.
Atlanta United, fresh off the 3-1 loss to Orlando City, hosts Inter Miami to kick off the mid-week slate (7 p.m.), before FC Cincinnati hosts Chicago, Colmus hosts Philadelphia, and the Red Bulls host DC United at 7:30 p.m. Houston hosts Minnesota United, Sporting Kansas City hosts FC Dallas, Nashville hosts Orlando, in crisis — at least in the front office — Real Salt Lake hosts Seattle, Portland hosts the Galaxy, and LAFC hosts San Jose.
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