New York City FC will conclude their preseason tournament in Tucson this [Saturday] evening, taking on Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City side at 5:30pm Eastern.
Sporting comes into the match with a 1-1-1 record in the tournament to NYCFC’s three consecutive losses.
Here are a couple things to watch for when City kicks off tomorrow:
Starting XI: Patrick Vieira has had his hands tied when it comes to personnel selection, with the bulk of NYC’s offseason signings all being completed within the last two weeks. Visa paperwork has gummed up the works, and limited the opportunities for Vieira to get a good look at guys like Alexander Ring, Yangel Herrera, and Alexander Callens – all of whom figure to play important roles for the first team. Injury kept Miguel Camargo out of action for the bulk of preseason as well, having only gotten game action at the tail end of the match against Colorado. We’ve gotten to see new Designated Player Maxi Moralez for a short while as well, but again, he was only signed last week.
Vieira himself has dubbed this offseason “frustrating” and who could blame him? In what has seemed like a panicky buying frenzy, we’ve addressed a lot of needs for the first team, but their timing has made it impossible to develop game-speed chemistry. From what we can see in practice, it appears that the newcomers are all getting along with the squad on a personal level, but will that translate to on-field success? We caught a glimpse of what could be with City’s only goal of the tournament – a wonderful combination of pace, skill and finishing on the part of Moralez, Jack Harrison, and David Villa – but is that the norm? Or lightning in a bottle?
“Defending from the front:” In a press call yesterday (joined by another newcomer, Rodney Wallace) coach Vieira stressed the importance of “defending from the front” – something clearly recognized as a problem by the front office staff as they stocked up on midfielders in the offseason. At the end of the day, NYCFC have not succeeded in holding the ball through the midfield, stopping attacks before they start, or generally stifling distribution of the opposition. Defense is a team responsibility, and it appears that Vieira wants his squad to start taking that responsibility more seriously.
City’s history of poor play at the back has continued here in 2017. Frederic Brillant, Maxime Chanot, RJ Allen, and Ronald Matarrita have all seen limited time, and virtually none of it together. In their one pairing, Brillant and Chanot did not have a good match, but maybe that’s just rust shaking off. That said, defending starts in the opposition end, and we’ll need the new members of our midfield to harass, obstruct and dispossess our opponents if we hope to ease the burden at the back.
On the Six: With James Sands’ likely returning to IMG Academy for the US U-17s at the start of the season, City fans have two new players to get excited about. Helping out in front of the defense will be one of Alexander Ring or Manchester City loanee Yangel Herrera. While Ring is the more experienced of the two, reports out of Venezuela and from around the world are nothing but positive for Herrera, who will no doubt thrive playing under Vieira’s tutelage. Vieira’s system is a meritocracy, so it will be interesting to see which he chooses to start. Hopefully we see both get time on Saturday.
Keeper Controversy: There has been no indication one way or the other about who will be NYCFC’s starting keeper on opening day. Sean Johnson was brought in for a reason, but Eirik Johansen has the tools to play in Vieira’s system, distributing the ball well and unafraid to come off his line. If the midfield can do a good job defending the middle, it could move the needle in Johansen’s favor. If City will be facing shot after shot after shot on goal, surely that supports Johnson’s cause. Preseason would have been a perfect time to get some clarity on this, but alas – it looks like we’ll be making it up as we go along.
Will this all lead to another long, winless stretch in the first half? One would like to think that with all the talent on this roster that City could manage to stay afloat. Time will tell.