Preview: NYCFC Hosts DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

NYCFC’s first match of the season is history. As Patrick Vieira and company prepare for their first home game of the year, they must put together a strong offensive plan against DC United’s solid defense.

Both clubs were held without a goal in their 2017 Major League Soccer openers ahead of Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson is certain NYCFC will rise to the challenge, buoyed by the team’s “winning culture.”

“It’s got to be your mentality,” Johnson said. “Everything you do has got to be with the end result in mind and that’s winning games and winning championships. If you’re not in the business of winning, you shouldn’t be a professional athlete. For me, everybody here has a passion to win. Being surrounded by a team full of guys like that, it’s infectious.”

Alexander Ring is bullish about Sunday’s game and the team’s growing cohesiveness.

“I think we work well together,” Ring said. “Everybody has their specific part. That was the first game me, Maxi [Moralez] and Andrea [Pirlo] played together. I think we dominated the midfield and I’m looking forward to the future.”


PROJECTED STARTING XI:

NYCFC: Johnson; Matarrita, Callens, Chanot, Allen; Moralez, Pirlo, Ring, Wallace, Harrison; Villa (C)

DC United: Hamid, DeLeon, Franklin, Birnbaum (C), Kemp; Sam, Jeffrey, Sarvas, Buscher, Nyarko; Mullins

Player to Watch: Steve Birnbaum. He proved to be a key cog in D.C. United’s first match of the season against Sporting Kansas City. DC United was harassed for most of the match, allowing 15 total shots and only holding 39 percent of possession. United’s weak offense put Birnbaum and the defense under intense pressure, and they came through with flying colors.

X-Factor: Patrick Mullins. Having played two years with NYCFC before moving to DC United, Mullins, 25, will want to show his old club what they are missing. The striker has played 15 regular-seasons matches and scored 8 goals since joining DC United in 2016. Mullins has something to prove.

Time: Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m.

Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.

Where To Watch: YES Network and Fox Sports Go

Prediction: NYCFC, 2-1