After an impressive pre-season vs. lower-level talent, New York City FC gets their first look against an MLS side in Wednesday’s match vs. the Montreal Impact.
By Jeff Weisinger
Throughout their two pre-season matches this month, New York City FC has looked the part of a solid, new team playing well under their new coach.
With that said, when you look at the overall body of work thus far, outscoring their lone two opponents — a college team and a lower-tier side — a 2-0 combined score is nice, but far from impressive.
NYCFC has defeated both Florida Gulf Coast University and the Oklahoma City Energy with a pair of 1-0 scores on goals by Patrick Mullins and David Villa, respectively.
But the warm-ups of the pre-season should change on Wednesday when the Blues take on their first and only MLS side this month in the Montreal Impact in the Tampa Bay Rowdies Invitiational at Al Lang Stadium in Tampa (a free stream will be available on YouTube and on the Rowdies’ website).
Despite switching to a balanced and more aggressive 4-3-3 formation, NYCFC’s lone two goals this preseason are a bit depressing considering the expectations that have been set forth by new head coach Patrick Vieira.
“I will be well prepared,” Vieira said back in his introductory press conference in late January. “I know what to expect. There are no excuses.”
There are no excuses for this NYCFC team to not be successful in 2016, however the reason for the lack of scoring is completely baffling, although they’ve looked a lot more in sync. At least, however, the Blues have played much better defensively, still yet to give up that first goal of the preseason.
They should be tested against an Impact side that brings back star striker Didier Drogba who should be expected to start. The question is whether or not newly acquired Harry Shipp would make his pre-season debut with his new club. Shipp, who was traded from the Chicago Fire last weekend, was expected in late Monday, so it may be unlikely he plays, let alone starts.
Drogba, 37, just re-joined the team after training in Qatar during the offseason. He scored 12 goals and tallied an assist in 14 total games for the Impact after arriving late last summer.
“We caught lightning in a bottle with Didier, and it’s important for us to start planning the post-Didier era in Montreal,” Impact president Joey Saputo said to MLSSoccer.com. “He’s got one more year in his contract, and it’s important to start putting a group together and start looking at how we’ll replace the player in the future.”
#NYCFC to Live Stream Tomorrow’s Match vs Montreal Impact #WeAreOnehttps://t.co/wWAMkExQPo pic.twitter.com/pZmGrvuUok
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) February 17, 2016
The Impact drew their reserve side, FC Montreal, 1-1 in a scrimmage last Saturday in preparation for their pre-season schedule that sees them play four times in 11 days.
While NYCFC and Vieira are trying to figure out who to play where in Vieira’s new system, the Impact are trying to figure out their new midfield. Montreal lost midfielders Justin Mapp and Dilly Duka this offseason.
The Blues, meanwhile, have had one bright spot so far in camp: Ronald Matarrita.
The 21-year-old tallied his first MLS pre-season assist against Oklahoma City on Villa’s goal and has had rave reviews so far throughout camp and the pre-season, playing a role similar to what Angelino did for NYCFC last season. He played left wing with newly acquired Diego Martinez behind him at left back against the Energy and created and established a solid connection with Thomas McNamara, creating a solid attack on the left side as one pressed up while the other one covered. Matarrita went back to his left back position in the second half.
The Blues featured all of their new defenders against the Energy: trialist Ivan Ivanov, Ethan White and Frederic Brillant — neither of whom were really pressured by the disorganized Energy FC attack. Both Josh Saunders and Eirik Johansen had another solid outing against Oklahoma City, teaming up for the club’s second clean sheet of the month in as many matches.
Offensively, besides Villa’s lone goal of the match, NYC could have went up 3-0 on solid opportunities by Mullins and McNamara. Mullins had a header and a penalty saved while McNamara was denied by kick save by the Energy’s goalkeeper.
Villa was the only designated player to play against Oklahoma City. Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo were inactive against the Energy, as were RJ Allen, Jefferson Mena and Connor Brandt.