Preview: New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

After crushing the Chicago Fire last Friday 4-1, Patrick Vieira and company will travel down South to Houston, Texas late Friday night to take on the Houston Dynamo.

Following New York’s win at home last week, they found themselves in a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference. However, after Toronto’s Wednesday night draw against Orlando City, a win for New York on Friday could see the Bronx club rise to first.

On the opposite side of the spectrum this season, the Houston Dynamo currently rest last in the Western Conference, only a few points behind ninth-placed San Jose Earthquakes. Although the Dynamo has won their two most recent matches, in no way does this brief streak of form mask the season’s resounding disappointment. Having fired head coach Owen Coyle half way through the season, Houston hired former player Wade Barrett, who was tasked with a difficult job. Upon the new hire, the Dynamo staff began to ship out star players, preparing for a huge shakeup during the offseason.

With New York traveling to Houston to take on the worst home club in Major League Soccer, will NYCFC’s impressive away form lead them to victory?


Match Information

Friday, September 30th at BBVA Compass Stadium, 8:00pm ET Kickoff

Watch: Unimas, MLS Live (in Canada)

Listen: 660 WFAN, 1280 WADO

Stream: nycfc.com/radio

Referee: ROBERT SIBIGA
AR1: Kevin Klinger
AR2: Logan Brown
4TH: Ismail Elfath

2016 MLS Records:

NYCFC: 48 points (12 wins,  draws, 9 losses)

Houston Dynamo: 32 points (7 wins, 11 draws, 11 losses)

Projected Lineups:

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

Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Sheanon Williams, Raul Rodriguez, Jalil Anibaba, DeMarcus Beasley; Collen Warner, Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark; Andrew Wenger, Alex, Mauro Manotas


The NYCFC Attack v Dynamo’s Defense

Jack Harrison, David Villa, and Thomas McNamara vs. Sheanon Williams, Raul Rodriguez, Jalil Anibaba, and DeMarcus Beasley (and Joe Willis)

In Houston’s most recent two wins, defenders Raul Rodriguez and DeMarcus Beasley have put in man-of-the-match performances. Furthermore, Houston has shown encouraging glimpses of creating a steel-shut defense. In their last two matches, the Dynamo have only conceded one goal, a slight improvement when compared to their two most recent matches against FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City where Wade Barrett’s side conceded three in each match. Much like New York’s defense, Houston’s backline remains inconsistent with only one source of consistency, which is United States International DeMarcus Beasley. Although Houston has performed well in their recent matches, they have always suffered against strong offensive outings. With Houston taking on one of the best offensive clubs in the MLS, it could result in a disastrous loss. With New York’s offense continuing to fly week in and week out, it has become highly difficult to stop their quick and powerful frontline. As captain David Villa hunts for the season’s Golden Boot award, New York fans should expect a huge match from their Spanish superstar. The 34-year-old forward currently holds 19 goals to his name, only one behind current leader Bradley Wright-Phillips. If Villa hopes to win this respected award, he will need to put in major performances for NYCFC.

Advantage: NYCFC


Houston’s front line v the NYCFC back line

Andrew Wenger, Alex, and Mauro Manotas vs. R.J. Allen, Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, and Ronald Matarrita (and Josh Saunders)

Coming off of an MLS Player-of-the-week award, Houston Dynamo striker Mauro Manotas is the man to keep your eye on this weekend. The 21-year-old forward put in a competent and workman-like performance against the reigning MLS Champions, the Portland Timbers. Each goal gave further proof that Houston shouldn’t worry about finding a new attacking option in the postseason, with Manotas showing glimpses of brilliance and growth. Taking on Houston’s in-form offense is New York’s inconsistent defense. With another week going by, NYCFC will yet again play without Luxemburg international Maxime Chanot due to his lingering herniated disc injury. Slowly gaining familiarity with one another, New York’s backline has progressed greatly under head coach Patrick Vieira. Tactical and technical savviness acrosst the backline has shown each week as Vieira moves around players in hopes of creating a dynamic defense. With Ronald Matarrita returning to form following his long departure due to injury and international duty, New York has regained another attacking threat. As Jefferson Mena and Frederic Brillant continue to strengthen their chemistry in the back, New York has developed a potential MLS ready defense. However, the inconsistency of New York’s defense may struggle this weekend, potentially allowing Houston to grab a goal or two.

Advantage: Houston


Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, and Federico Bravo vs. Collen Warner, Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark

The main area in which New York will have complete control is the midfield. Leading New York’s midfield is Italian legend Andrea Pirlo and Spanish defensive-mid Andoni Iraola. The two European veterans have shown their skill and worth over the season under Patrick Vieira, becoming key components to this young expansion team. With Chelsea legend Frank Lampard still out injured due to a calf strain, New York will have to look for another option in the center. Recent rising Colombian midfielder Steven Mendoza is likely to miss Friday’s match due to a hamstring injury. With both Lampard and Mendoza sidelined with injuries, fans should expect a starting appearance from Argentine midfielder Federico Bravo, who has shown glimpses of defensive brilliance when playing with the first team.

Advantage: NYCFC


The Coaches

Patrick Vieira vs. Wade Barrett

Upon taking the helm as Houston’s interim head coach, former Dynamo left back Wade Barrett was tasked with digging a last place Houston side out of a deep hole. The 40-year-old has done little to help their cause. Relinquishing star players such as Giles Barnes and Erick Torres, Barrett has seen his weaker Houston side remain last in the Western Conference. On the opposing side, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira has enjoyed his 2016 MLS season. Taking over a cluttered star-studded East coast side, Vieira was able to earn New York their first ever playoff appearance in their short two-year existence.

Advantage: NYCFC


Intangibles

For the first time in club history, NYCFC will travel down south to BBVA Compass Stadium. New York has been tipped to grab all three points away. Tied with the fewest home wins in MLS this season, Houston will struggle against a New York side who are tied with the most road wins in Major League Soccer this season. This match will be New York’s last time they play in league play until October 16 due to the upcoming international break, meaning that Vieira will want his side to give it their all before the two-week break. The teams have only met once before Friday night. On May 30, 2015, Houston traveled to Yankee Stadium to play out a 1-1 draw against New York, goals came from first-half scorers David Villa and Will Bruin.

Advantage: NYCFC


Prediction

As the season draws to a close, NYCFC are doing everything in their power to claim their first ever Eastern Conference title in their two short years in existence. With Patrick Vieira and company taking on a poor home team with the Houston Dynamo, New York should simply leave Houston with three points in their pocket. Friday night’s match should prove effortless, resulting in an undemanding 3-1 win for New York.