NYCFC looking for first ever win against Crew SC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

PURCHASE, N.Y. – New York City FC need to defeat Columbus Crew SC Sunday in order to clinch a place in the Conference Semifinals. A victory would be the first time in NYCFC have won against the Black and Gold in franchise history.

NYCFC trained Wednesday at SUNY Purchase for the first time since their loss at D.C. United, with most of the team participating in full. Defender Ronald Matarrita trained indoors after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s match. Head coach Patrick Vieira said Matarrita will train outdoors on Thursday and was feeling better than he did on Sunday. Vieira said Matarrita’s status for Sunday’s match will depend on how his ankle recovers during the rest of the week.

Midfielder Frank Lampard was involved for the entire session. Vieira said he will be available barring any setbacks in training. Defender R.J. Allen missed Sunday’s match and the latter half of the training session recovering from a calf injury. But Vieira said he is expecting to have a clean bill of health for Sunday’s match where he hopes the team will show its true face.

“When we play a match, there is a minimum that we want,” Vieira said, “and that is for the players to work hard and we didn’t do it—especially in the first half. I’m really looking forward for us to respond on Sunday.”

City have been able to rebound after poor performances at various points this season. They will have to again this Sunday to secure the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pigeons lead Toronto FC by a point heading into the final round of matches. A win would guarantee a first-round bye. Anything less would allow Toronto to move into second with a win. City hold the tiebreaker over Toronto by winning one more match.

“It’s quite clear but it’s not easy against a team that usually gives us a lot of problems,” Andoni Iraola said. “We’ve never beaten them. They try to play from the back a lot and keep possession. Those kind of games are not easy for us. We have to be ready, there’s a lot to play and it’s the last chance for us before the playoffs to give a good game for the supporters.”

City have two draws and two losses in their first four meetings with Crew SC. They allowed three goals in both meetings this season including a 95th minute equalizer from Ethan Finlay. Columbus are eliminated from playoff contention, something Vieira said he still can’t really believe.

“I’m sure Columbus like every team that won’t make the playoffs will want to finish the season well and they will want to finish it with a win,” Vieira said. “I think they will come here with a strong team and play and win the game because they want to show that they are better than what the league table says. It will be a difficult game because when we played them away, it was a difficult game for us. The technical level of this team is really high and we will have to perform really well. We will have to play one of our best games to win that game.”

Vieira organized training to better work on his team’s defending with numbers against them. He said he will have three different tactical plans that he will want to test for the upcoming week including a three-man backline. The goal, he said, with whichever alignment he chooses to field will be keeping the team solid and compact when it turns the ball over.

A strong performance on Sunday would bolster Vieira’s resumé for winning Coach of the Year. The same holds true for David Villa and his chances at winning the Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player awards. Villa trails New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips by a goal and is included with Wright-Phillips and other players as contenders for MVP. Villa could not care less.

“No,” Villa said when asked about the Golden Boot. “This is not important. We’re fighting as a team and the Golden Boot doesn’t matter. If we were inside the top-two with nothing to play for, then we can talk individually. But now the most important thing is to get the three points.”

“Of course [getting second place is the objective], but we need to do a good job and have a good game. I think we can do it.”