Preview: New York City FC vs DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

With only two matches remaining in the regular season, it’s the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC fighting it out for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Standing in the way of New York City FC is the fifth place D.C. United, who are in dire need of three insurance points as they hope to claim a spot in this year’s postseason.


Match Information

Sunday, October 16th at BBVA Compass Stadium, 8:00pm ET Kickoff

Watch: YES Network, MLS Live

Listen: WFAN.com, 92.7 FM Que Buena

Stream: nycfc.com/radio

Referee: ALAN KELLY
AR1: Kyle Atkins
AR2: Brian Dunn
4TH: Jose Carlos Rivero

2016 MLS Records:

NYCFC: 51 points (14 wins, 9 draws, 9 losses)

DC United: 43 points (10 wins, 13 draws, 9 losses)

Projected Lineups:

NYCFC: Josh Saunders; R.J. Allen, Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, Ronald Matarrita; Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, Jack Harrison; Khiry Shelton, David Villa, Thomas McNamara

DC United: Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Luke Mishu; Rob Vincent, Luciano Acosta, Julian Buscher; Lloyd Sam, Patrick Mullins, Lamar Neagle


The NYCFC Attack v United’s Defense

Khiry Shelton, David Villa, and Thomas McNamara vs. Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Luke Mishu (and Bill Hamid)

A major improvement found throughout the last few weeks for D.C. United is their defense. Struggling to find a consistent backline, the idea to drop winger Nick DeLeon to right back drastically improved the shape and capability in front of goal. Giving the option to join the attack, United’s defensive backs Luke Mishu and DeLeon now have the option to move forward and support their offense. This idea holds as United have seen themselves score a respectable eight goals in their last three matches. In addition to their capable scoring abilities, United has only allowed three goals in their last three — a step up when compared to their prior four matches where they conceded two goals in every outing.

Set to take on D.C.’s fine-tuned backline is New York City FC’s David Villa. Chasing the historic Golden Boot award, the Spanish captain currently sits first in the race along side Red Bull’s striker Bradley Wright-Phillips with 21 goals. With two matches left in the season, Villa’s drive should see him punch in a few more goals before the postseason. With the support from in-form wingers Khiry Shelton and Tommy McNamara, NYCFC fans should expect their club to find the net easily this Sunday.

Advantage: Even


DC’s front line v the NYCFC back line

 Lloyd Sam, Patrick Mullins, and Lamar Neagle vs. R.J. Allen, Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, and Ronald Matarrita (and Josh Saunders)

After a season full of inconsistency in their final third, NYCFC may have finally hit the ground running with their back line. Although the goals allowed column shows little to no improvement, recent matches for New York suggest that Vieira has finally found a reliable back four. Throughout the season, Vieira would expect his offense to begin from the back. Incorporating a European style to a team full of North, South, and Central Americans are surely to hit a few bumps along the way, which is exactly what happened in New York.

Taking on New York’s rejuvenated defense is D.C. United’s dynamic front three of Lloyd Sam, Patrick Mullins, and Lamar Neagle. The electric trio has paired up nicely since the arrival of Mullins from NYCFC a few months back. In addition, the acquisition of Lloyd Sam from the New York Red Bulls has helped supply D.C. United with a consistent attack that poses a threat for most MLS sides.

Advantage: Even


Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, and Jack Harrison vs. Rob Vincent, Luciano Acosta, and Julian Buscher

This weekend’s most unbalanced match-up will be between the two sides’ midfield. On one hand, New York possesses a mixture of international veterans and hot prospects. On the other hand, United has a former USL midfielder, a college graduate, and a budding Argentian attacker. Although United’s three midfielders do not have the plaudits New York’s has, they still bring an explosive punch. Due to their little exposure, many teams have no way of scouting them, giving them the slight advantage. Although this surprise factor may work on other inexperienced MLS midfielders, it will sadly flop against New York. NYCFC fans should expect Andrea Pirlo and company to take control and run circles around D.C. all night.

Advantage: NYCFC


The Coaches

Patrick Vieira vs. Ben Olsen

As the year draws close to a conclusion, there is no doubt as to who ranks as one of the top candidates for this season’s coach of the year. Excluding managers in the West, there is arguably no other coach in the East who has accomplished as much as NYCFC’s Patrick Vieira. Turning a mixed and cluttered Jason Kreis squad into a title-chasing team in only a short season, New York can safely presume that they have found themselves a franchise leader in the French legend. Deciphering the critical dilemma as to how someone starts Lampard, Villa, and Pirlo within the same team, Vieira has shown his footballing brilliance week-in-and-week-out throughout the 2016 MLS season.

On the other hand, D.C. United’s head coach Ben Olsen has endured himself a rollercoaster of a season. Struggling to implement a consistent starting eleven, United found themselves lacking a certain punch throughout the year. However, in recent months, D.C. has found a groove. Winning their last three matches, Ben Olsen and company have found themselves narrowly holding onto one of the final postseason slots. Overall, Olsen has dug himself out of a deep whole, but when compared to the season Vieira has had, the Frenchman comes out on top.

Advantage: NYCFC


Intangibles

This weekend’s match-up will total as the third meeting between New York and D.C. this season. The previous contests resulted in two wins for New York, claiming victory once at each ground. Furthermore, with NYCFC’s most recent 2-0 win against the Houston Dynamo, it sees Patrick Vieira’s side expand their league-best record for away wins to seven.

Advantage: NYCFC


Prediction

This Sunday’s match may decide the fate of both clubs. A win is necessary for New York as they attempt to earn their first ever first place spot. Nevertheless, a win for DC will help ensure the capital’s team a playoff spot.

Overall, this weekend will prove exciting for all fans to watch. With both sides flying as of late, fans should expect for an electric 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium.