Preview: New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire

NYCFC Toronto

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

New York City FC and the Chicago Fire meet for the second time in five matches Sunday evening – and they are once again in similar positions.

When the two sides first met on March 6, it was the debut for rookie head coaches Patrick Vieira and Veljko Paunovic. NYCFC won the chaotic match in Bridgeview, Ill. 4–3 with Mix Diskerud scoring the game winner in the second half.

NYCFC have yet to win a match since that afternoon while the Fire have not lost a match.

Both sides have five points and a goal difference of zero through their first four matches.

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Match Information:

Sunday, April 10 at Yankee Stadium. 7:00pm ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: FS1/Fox Sports2Go
Radio: WFAN (English), WADO (Spanish)
Referee: Mark Geiger

Regular Season Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form
New York City: 5 points from 4 matches, 7GF/7GA, 5th in the East,12th in MLS, WDLD
Chicago: 5 points from 4 matches, 5GF/5GA, 6th in the East, 13th in MLS, LDDW


New York City’s attack vs. Chicago’s defense
David Villa, Patrick Mullins, Tony Taylor vs. John Harrington, Joao Meira, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Rodrigo Ramos

Patrick Vieira spent the week experimenting with different attacking fronts in an attempt to improve NYCFC’s attack. They have not been shutout all season but only have three goals in their last three games. David Villa may move to the left side with the stronger Patrick Mullins coming into the lineup at center forward. Steven Mendoza may start if Vieira opts for speed over strength.

The Fire’s collective defending has drastically improved in the month since it conceded four in the opener. Veljko Paunovic has three MLS-caliber centerbacks at his disposal and can easily switch from a back four to a back three. Since NYCFC will look to keep the ball, Paunovic can clog the middle with an extra center back and rely on wingbacks for width and long diagonals to create chances on the counter.

Advantage: Chicago


Chicago’s attack vs. New York City’s defense
Gilberto vs. Ronald Matarrita, Federico Bravo, Jason Hernandez, Andoni Iraola.

The Fire will be without David Accam for a third game to a knee sprain. Gilberto will once again start up front but remains scoreless this season. He has the speed and skill to challenge the NYCFC defense which has yet to find a reliable pair of centerbacks to deploy.

Ronald Matarrita will return to the starting lineup and could be a dangerous option overlapping on the left side if Villa starts at left wing.

Advantage: New York City


Midfields
Andrea Pirlo, Thomas McNamara, Mix Diskerud vs. Matt Polster, Kennedy Igboananike, Razvan Cocis, Arturo Alvarez

NYCFC have the advantage on talent but they will be 3v4 in the midfield. The Fire have been able to frustrate their opponents through clogging the midfield. The narrower field will allow for Paunovic to take a midfielder out and tuck the wide midfielders in to limit NYCFC’s passing options. If the Fire can force turnovers, look for them to find Igboananike in space to start a counter.

The challenge for NYCFC will be to find space in the attacking half. Mix Diskerud earned praise for his ability to roam in between the lines and that will be tested Sunday evening. If the Fire do opt to drop deep, that will allow Andrea Pirlo time to pick out teammates from deep. It might be the way New York City find a breakthrough.

Advantage: New York City


The Coaches

Paunovic told reporters this week that his side’s ‘honor was hurt’ in their season-opening loss. The Fire coach is willing to adapt on a week-to-week basis and has shown that he’s willing to change lineups and formations for each opponent the team faces. It has worked early on this season as the Fire are unbeaten in its last three matches.

Vieira has improved NYCFC’s organization and mentality but the team is still lacking the precision of an MLS contender. His experimentation with City’s front line is a sign that he’s still looking for the right answer. There’s plenty to suggest that Vieira will find the combination that leads to more goals.

Advantage: Chicago


Intangibles

The field conditions could be a concern Sunday evening. Though the Yankee Stadium pitch was fine in March, the temporary sod had to be removed with baseball season starting. With winter weather and freezing temperatures set to hit the New York area Saturday, the relaid grass may not be as in tact as it was in NYCFC’s previous home games. If it does hold well, credit to the stadium’s grounds crew for meeting a tough test.

If the Fire fail to win, they will set the record for longest road winless streak in MLS history at 27 matches.

Advantage: Even


Prediction: 2–2 draw.


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