Preview: New York City FC host New England Revolution

IMAGE, COURTESY OF NYCFC

Nearly 35,000 seats have been sold for Sunday’s inaugural New York City FC match at Yankee Stadium, making their New England Revolution encounter one of the hottest tickets in MLS this weekend.

NYCFC are coming off of a rather pedestrian performance against Orlando City, drawing the Lions in front of over 62,000 fans in Florida.  Mix Diskerud played hero with a gorgeous curler, beating Donovan Ricketts for the early lead.  Kaka, however, managed some magic — and luck — to draw the match.

Jason Kreis and his men will take the road point.  However, it was clear in their performance that NYCFC are far from a finished product.  Lacking an attacking threat on the wings, NYCFC were narrow throughout their debut performance, struggling to stretch the Orlando defense.  That weakness made for a predictable attack, focused down the gut of the field.  Orlando defenders adjusted accordingly, essentially cutting David Villa off from the entire offense.

It won’t get any easier come Sunday.

The New England Revolution lost in spectacular fashion to the Seattle Sounders this past weekend.  However, in these early days of the season, one loss is no indicator of the team’s value this year.  The Revolution are the defending Eastern Conference Champions, and have added some quality talent to an already young core that will surely elevate them to contender status once more.

How will NYCFC respond to their more experienced competitors?

Lets break down the match:


Projected Starting XI:

NYCFC (4-4-2): Saunders; Williams, Hernandez, Wingert, Brovsky; Jacobson, Grabavoy; Mix, Calle; Villa, Shelton

New England Revolution (4-2-3-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Kevin Alston, Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney; Andy Dorman, Scott Caldwell; Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez; Juan Agudelo

History: This is the first encounter between New England and NYCFC.

Last Encounter: N/A

Battle To Watch: David Villa vs. Jose Goncalves. For all his history and achievements, Villa could not manage a single shot on goal against Orlando City last week.  It won’t get any easier against New England.  If Villa can manage to find a seam past Caldwell and Dorman, he still has to beat Goncalves.  The Portuguese native will take extra delight in stopping his Spanish nemesis, making for the most intriguing match-up of the encounter.

X-Factor: The Sod. Yankee Stadium has been under scrutiny leading up to New York City FC’s first home match.  With little time for the added grass to take root on the infield, both teams will be struggling against a similar foe — the turf.

Analysis:

Don’t expect the Revolution to look as toothless as they did against Seattle last week.

Likewise, don’t assume New York City will be as timid either.

After months of hiccups and setbacks, NYCFC will finally feature in front of their home fans, and on their home turf.  The narrow field will serve as an advantage to the center-heavy attack of NYCFC, particularly when juxtaposed to the dimensions Revolution players have become accustomed to at Gillette. Moreover, the fan backing will be the first of its kind for this team, adding to the overall experience.

But the surroundings will only play a part in the overall narrative.  NYCFC have several questions on the player front that need addressing, particularly if they hope to beat a formidable New England.

While Adam Nemec was not terribly ineffectual, he fell short of expectations in his first match.  Meanwhile, MLS Draftee Khiry Shelton managed to change the complexion of the match, simply with his addition.  Kreis said Shelton would be in contention for a starting role this weekend.  However, his immediate usage could rob NYCFC of a vibrant attacking spark off the bench.  With so much riding on this debut performance, expect Shelton to edge out his Slovakian teammate in the starting XI.

Meanwhile, with Andres Mendoza expected to be held out of the match, Wingert and Hernandez will be asked to reproduce their Citrus Bowl performance against Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen and the high-impact offense of the Revolution.  The Revolution will be without playmaker, Teal Bunbury, but that loss will be mitigated by the returning Charlie Davies, who may start this match on the bench.  Kreis picked gold with his experimental centerback pairing last week.  Their ability to build on that performance will dictate success for NYCFC on the evening — and in the short term.

Finally, there is the issue of width.  The narrow field will make stretching defenses a bit less pressing than was the case at the Citrus Bowl.  Still, NYCFC have to show a more dynamic front against New England’s experienced defenders.  If they come out in a predictable, center-heavy attack once again, Goncalves and crew will have a field day picking apart the NYCFC defense — and Villa will be lost in traffic.

Kreis needs to find a consistent threat to confound New England just long enough to give his weapons a chance to execute.

It’s a tall order against a tough opponent.  Kreis will have them prepared for the challenge — but no amount of home support or advantage will be able to counter the talent of the Revolution.

Prediction: 1-0 New England