Preview: NYCFC Looks for Goals Against Chicago

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

NYCFC logoThere’s never a dull week around New York City FC. Two games, one stadium bid and one schedule shuffle come to an end in Bridgeview, Ill. with City taking on the Chicago Fire in a possible playoff preview. With a win, the Pigeons can clinch a home playoff game and a top-three place in the Eastern Conference.

Scoring Drought

NYCFC (16-8-7, 55 points) is in the midst of a drought and has not scored more than once in the last six games, the longest stretch under Coach Patrick Vieira. The dry spell has players and coaches bemused (that’s puzzled, not amused), especially considering the quality of the chances City created against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night. Some of that can be partly attributed to the absence of David Villa, but even Villa’s misfired as of late.

Villa was held out of the starting lineup in Montreal while Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison each played fewer than 70 minutes, so it’s likely that we’ll see all three start against the Fire. If Chicago’s marking is as loose as Montreal’s was, it’s unlikely that Villa won’t make them pay for it. Harrison ended his dry spell on Wednesday, scoring for the second time since July. Wallace has not scored since May. Can his drought end?

Finally Fit

City’s injury report is almost clean as Yangel Herrera returned to play Wednesday night. Maxime Chanot remains sidelined until after the international break. Alex Ring has played the full 90 minutes in both games this week so he’s fully fit. Ethan White and Mikey Lopez are also available for selection.

Fire Heating Up

The Chicago Fire (15-10-6, 51) has found a bit of a rhythm, winning three of its last five including a solid 4–1 win at the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. Djordje Mihailovic and Luis Solignac each had a goal and an assist while Bastain Schweinsteiger and David Accam were sidelined. Schweinsteiger remains questionable with a thigh injury while Accam is expected to play. Nemanja Nikolic reached 20 goals, scoring twice, and has scored in three of his last four starts after a nine-game drought. Matt Polster has assists in back-to-back games playing as a right back.

Playoff Plans

NYCFC will almost certainly host a home playoff game and the club has released a postseason schedule.

Because of a college football game (Rutgers vs. Maryland) scheduled for Nov. 4 at Yankee Stadium, City would host the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 1, if it clinches the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. The first leg of the series would also be rescheduled to Sunday, Oct. 29.

If NYCFC finishes third or fourth, it would host the play-in game on Oct. 25 or 26. A victory would mean NYCFC would host the first leg of the semifinals on Oct. 30 or 31.

The team clinches a home playoff game with a win against Chicago or if the Columbus Crew fails to win any of its remaining games. If NYC somehow was to fall out of the top four, it would be on the road for the play-in game but would host the first leg of the semifinals on the Oct. 30 or 31, should it advance.

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

When: 8:30 p.m., Eastern

TV/Radio: YES, YES-SAP (Spanish); (English), WQBU 92.7 FM, 96.3 FM-HD2 (Spanish); (online in both languages)

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero

ARs: Andrew Bigelow, Brian Poeschel

Fourth: Mark Kadlecik

VAR: Chris Penso