NYCFC will look to regain their form Saturday afternoon against a familiar foe in the New England Revolution.
By Jeff Weisinger
Despite NYCFC looking to turn things around before their upcoming week off, new head coach Patrick Vieira voiced his displeasure with the schedule.
Vieira had this to say to Empire of Soccor reporter, Christian Araros:
“It’s a little bit disappointing that we have to play the game knowing that it is an international week — especially knowing that there’s only three games as well. That is the way it is and we have to deal with it but I think the best option would be for the teams to not have their best players go to international duty duty and play the game but of course international is international and we can’t change that so maybe the best option is to stop the three games and just go into internationals.”
Vieira and company will have to figure out how to replace starters Mix Diskerud, Khiry Shelton and Ronald Matarrita in Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution (3 p.m. ET,
Two players of which that should find their way into the Starting XI, or at least the 18-man lineup for NYCFC on Saturday are defender Jefferson Mena and midfielder Kwadwo Poku.
“We had a good week of training with players fighting for spots in the starting eleven.That is what I want and obviously having these three players away. Some players who didn’t start any of the games will start and it will be really good for them to show what they can do.”
Under Vieira’s current three-man backline experiment, Mena could play the left back position, replacing Matarrita for a week, or he could slip back as a centerback if Vieira deploys a four-man backline instead. Diego Martinez could also make his first start in the backline, having already played both spots in the preseason.
The bigger question that everyone and anyone will be interested in is if we finally see Poku’s season debut.
Vieira had this to say to Dylan Butler about Poku’s chances on starting Saturday:
“It’s all depending on how he works in training. If he works well in training, if he works hard in training, he will have a chance. But if he doesn’t and other people do it, other people will have a chance in front of him. You need to earn that spot because there’s so many players who want to play.”
Vieira has commented on Poku’s training so far this season, mentioning that he wants Poku to work on his mental game along with his technical game. However these are things that he hasn’t fully articulated to Poku himself, at least not yet.
“We really haven’t talked much. As every player, a coach will talk to a player about why he is playing the system and the players on the field. I just take it as being profession and I’ll just wait for my time.”
Poku is coming off of a breakout 2015 campaign where he scored four goals and tallied seven assists in 27 appearances, including six starts. He easily became a fan favorite due to his physical play and hard work-ethic on the pitch — he also had the absence of Frank Lampard to thank for that, as he does now.
“I think if [Vieira] doesn’t want me here, he’ll be the same guy to let me go somewhere, but since I’m here I’m part of it and I’m getting prepared and waiting for the chance,”
This season Poku’s been an unused substitute in two of the three games played. He wasn’t on the 18-man roster in the home opener against Toronto FC.
“It’s just a question of time. It’s not about the talent, because he has the talent. It’s about how he can use the talent to help the team. This is what is important.”
What’s really more important for NYCFC is earning a much needed three points against conference rival New England. It was at this point last season, Week 4, that the Blues started their 11-match winless streak and the last thing they need is to go into their bye week winless in three straight.
It will also be interesting to see how NYCFC rebounds from a loss under Vieira’s guidance.
Vieira commented on a lack of scoring for the club:
“I think the last game we played, the only thing missing was the goal. What I think is important in football is to create chances and we did it during this game. I strongly believe that the goals will come.”
Vieira will have some historical luck behind his side on Saturday. If history follows through, then Vieira should get a goal from captain David Villa. Last year, Villa scored a goal in every match after the Blues played Orlando City. He’s also scored in both home matches against the Revs last year.
New England has struggled on the road, allowing all six of their conceded goals away from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.