Preview: Playoff-Bound NYCFC Eyes Second Place

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

NYCFC logoNew York City FC goes from Connecticut to Quebec and back into Eastern Conference play for the rest of the week and the season with a game Wednesday night against the Montreal Impact. It’s a welcome return for NYCFC, which won only one of four games against Western foes and have seen their second-place standing in the conference come under threat.

Dwindling Lead

NYCFC’s three-game winless streak coupled with Atlanta United‘s six-game unbeaten streak cut the gap between the teams to three points, and Atlanta has a game in hand. Both teams play on Wednesday and Saturday. Should the Pigeons drop points in games this week, Atlanta could potentially overtake them with wins over Philadelphia Union and at the New England Revolution.

In Recovery, Out of Rhythm

David Villa and Alex Ring returned to the starting lineup for last Saturday’s game against the Houston Dynamo, but the City attack still looked out of rhythm and only scored thanks to a mistake by Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Now with the packed schedule, there may be more rotation in the attack after Villa could not complete the 90 minutes on Saturday, and with a crucial game against the Chicago Fire this weekend.

Coach Patrick Vieira can return to Jack Harrison as a false No. 9 tactic despite the struggles that came with it this past month. Jonathan Lewis and Ugo Okoli could also see playing time. Harrison, along with, Rodney Wallace and Khiry Shelton created opportunities during the final moments of last Saturday’s game but NYCFC hasn’t scored more than one goal in a game in the past month.

“You go through something like this sometimes,” Shelton said Saturday. “We just have to push through it and focus on the next game and be more clinical in front of goal.”

Herrera Nears Return

Yangel Herrera made the trip to Connecticut for last Saturday’s game, but to only take in the game in a suite with NYCFC officials. Vieira said afterward that Herrera would not be available until after the coming international break, but the NYCFC website has proclaimed him available for Wednesday night. The Venezuelan has missed the last five games with a sports hernia sustained during the last international window. He began training last week so a full return seems out of the question.

Impact Goes Up and Down 

Montreal’s sleepy season sprang to life with a four-game winning streak that was immediately followed with a four-game losing streak. They split their last two games and the inconsistent form has them below the red line in seventh in the East, three points behind the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls also have a game in hand so the Impact cannot afford to drop points Wednesday night.

The game will be Montreal’s third in the past week and it plays again this weekend forcing Coach Mauro Biello to rotate his team. Biello will be without promising midfielder Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla and indicated he would be rotating Mateo Mancosu into the forward line instead of Dominic Oduro.

Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: YES, YES-SAP (Spanish); WFAN.com (English), WQBU 92.7 FM, 96.3 FM-HD2 (Spanish); NYCFC.com/radio (Online in both languages)

Referee: Hilario Grejada

ARs: Nick Uranga, Daniel Bellau

VAR: Edvin Jurisevic