Preview: New York City FC at Philadelphia Union

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

New York City FC will be staring across the field at a team they hope to emulate.

While the Philadelphia Union have handed New York two of their 11 winless matches over the course of the past three months, they also serve as an example of a club whom struggled from the onset, only to turn their season around.

After starting the season at 1-7-3, the Union have turned on the heat, going 3-1 in recent matches, including wins over Eastern Conference powers DC United, Red Bulls, and most recently, the Columbus Crew. The short, but positive run of form has Philadelphia back in playoff position.

New York hasn’t been as lucky. Ravaged by injuries, depth issues and a lack of cohesion, NYCFC have managed just eight of a possible 39 pts in their first 13 matches.

Can they turn their fortunes in Chester?


PROJECTED XI:

NYCFC (4-1-2-1-2): Saunders; Brovsky, Facey, Hernandez, Wingert; Jacobson; Poku, Ballouchy; Velasquez; Villa, Nemec  

UNION (4-2-3-1): Sylvestre; Williams, Edu, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Noguiera, Carroll; Wenger, Le Toux, Maidana; Aristiguieta

HISTORY: Philadelphia lead the series 1-0-1

LAST ENCOUNTER: 1-1 at Yankee Stadium

BATTLE TO WATCH: Edu vs. Villa. When it comes to crucial battles, David Villa will always get a nod for NYCFC. This time, he faces Maurice Edu who has proven troublesome in recent matches. As the face of the offense, and with no Diskerud to be found, Villa will have quite the load to carry on the attack — and Edu will not make it easy.

X-FACTOR: No Mix. With Diskerud on National Team duty, NYCFC will have to look for an offensive spark on their bench, or a change of formation to make up for his work rate.


ANALYSIS:

Possession has been arguably NYCFC’s best attribute this season. However, finishing continues to be a concern. Last week against Houston, it took a controversial red card to help City take home points.

This week, they face the Union, who have delivered two of the more crushing results this season. Philadelphia managed to skate by on a late goal at PPL Park a little over a month ago, and followed that with a come-from-behind draw thanks to CJ Sapong at Yankee Stadium.

Aristigueta is questionable for the match; a key boon for NYCFC. However, the visitors aren’t exactly at 100%. Khiry Shelton is questionable for the encounter and Javier Calle is out, leaving a thin bench to spell the team starters.

Motivation won’t be a problem. As the last encounter of the season between these two teams, Kreis and company will look to even out what has been a Union-heavy series. But the Union have been hot as of late, as has been club hero, Sebastian Le Toux.

New York desperately need to claw out a victory and end their skid. Much of that will weigh upon the creativity of the midfield in the absence of Mix Diskerud and Khiry Shelton, leaving Sebastian Velasquez and possibly Pablo Alvarez to compensate for his loss. Expect Poku to get a start as NYCFC look to compensate for their midfield troubles with the unique talent and speed of the Ghanian.

Prediction: Union 1-0 NYCFC