School’s back in session as NYCFC faces a massive test tonight when they face Sporting Kansas City on their home turf.
It’s been nearly two weeks since New York City Football Club’s last match, on that resulted in a 1-1 draw with their crosstown rivals, New York Red Bulls. However, these past two weeks have given Patrick Vieira’s men anything but a rest.
Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, NYCFC sit in second place both in the East and in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. While first place Toronto FC might be too far ahead to catch, the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew and Red Bulls are in hot pursuit of the Blues.
The cluster in the playoff places make these next few weeks so critical, which is why NYCFC’s squad depth will be heavily tested, starting with tonight’s matchup at Yankee Stadium. The home side will be missing eight key players from their squad:
David Villa, who leads the MLS in goals, picked up a knock while on international duty with Spain will be missing the match. Alex Ring, Yangel Herrera and Rodney Wallace, three fairly consistent starters, are also on international duty. And NYCFC is no stranger to injury, as they will be lacking Ethan White, Mikey Lopez, Ronald Matarrita and Maxime Chanot due to various injuries.
That leaves a fairly shallow squad, both in numbers and quality, to face a Sporting Kansas City team that has the best defensive record in MLS (only 19 goals conceded) and has beaten NYCFC both times these teams have played in the past.
No matter how dismal it all seems, it isn’t all doom and gloom for NYCFC. Sporting Kansas City is also missing several key contributors, including American internationals Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. On another positive note, NYCFC has only lost once at home this season, all the way back on April 23 against Orlando City.
However, the missing steel from midfield in Alex Ring and the ridiculous offensive production from David Villa will be tough to overcome. Here are the players that will need to step up for NYCFC to have a chance to return to winning ways.
Jonathan Lewis, NYCFC’s first round draft pick this season, has burst onto the scene in his rookie season. After breaking into the first team over the summer, Lewis has started three times, and has scored two massively important goals, a belter against the Galaxy and a last second winner against the Revolution.
Nothing like a stoppage time winner in front of the home fans, right @Jon_lewis710? (cc: @BBMobile) #NYCFC pic.twitter.com/NbZStOxKA2
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) August 21, 2017
While Villa’s presence is gone through the middle, Lewis and fellow winger Jack Harrison will need to be in attack mode on the wings to generate offense against KC’s stout defense. We’ve seen the sheer potential Lewis possesses. Now, the rookie needs to come up big when his team needs him the most.
The man responsible for replacing Villa at striker in NYCFC’s 4-3-3 formation will, in all likelihood, be Sean Okoli. The former USL MVP has only started twice this season and only has one goal to his name.
However, the American striker has the opportunity to seize the day with Villa’s absence, and wedge his way into more playing time upon the Spaniard’s return. Okoli has good pace and strength but he will need to have both on full display for NYCFC to put a few goals in the back of the net.
Last season, Pirlo racked up one goal and 11 assists. This season, he has notched but one assist in only 10 appearances. Injury and a lack of effectiveness have marginalized the Maestro’s impact on the squad but with midfielders Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera out, Pirlo will likely be thrust into action as a deep lying playmaker.
While Pirlo has yet to truly find his form this season, the old saying goes: “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” NYCFC will need that class to shine through if they are to defeat Sporting Kansas City.
So tune in tonight to watch NYCFC face a huge challenge for this season. Injuries or not, NYCFC is ready to get this done.