New York City FC takes on Houston Dynamo tonight in their opening match of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona. The tournament features three matches played between the Dynamo, Colorado Rapids, Sporting Kansas City, Red Bulls and of course our own New York City.
After their warm-up matches against Jacksonville University, C.S. Emelec and Red Bull New York in which we saw cobbled-together lineups of trialists, unsigned draftees and some mainstays, fans should finally get a better idea of what Patrick Vieira has in mind moving forward. Here are some positional battles to look forward to in the coming matches:
Center Back: Alexander Callens was brought in this offseason and many have pegged him to displace incumbent starter Frederic Brillant before the end of the preseason. While Callens is still getting his visa sorted to play in the U.S., Brillant will get to make his case, pairing with Maxime Chanot in a familiar tandem. Will the half-season of chemistry be enough to maintain his position? We’ll find out over the next ten days.
Defensive Midfield: Lots of newcomers here. Yangel Herrera, Alexander Ring, Chris Wingate, and James Sands are all vying for minutes in the hole left by the departure of Andoni Iraola. Of this group, so far we’ve only seen Wingate and Sands, with Sands being the clear favorite. Patrick Vieira has openly praised the 16-year-old as having an advanced understanding of the game and how it develops, and against Red Bull on Wednesday, we saw that his teammates have trust in him to do his job well. Wingate, unfortunately, gets the short end of the stick here. He wasn’t effective in the bulk of his minutes, and Sands made a very noticeable difference once he came on. In Wingate’s favor is the fact that Ring has only just arrived in the States, and Herrera is still in transit; so he’ll likely get another shot to prove he belongs at the MLS level. Which of the two (or three, if Ring is good-to-go) gets the first-team minutes will be very telling.
Left Wing: Another position where there is fierce competition. With the likes of Miguel Camargo injured and new Designated Player Maxi Moralez still getting his visa in order, there is opportunity for newcomers like Rodney Wallace (who just arrived in camp yesterday) and Jalen Brown to get minutes. Khiry Shelton can also make a case for an occasional start opposite Jack Harrison. Or will it be cult-hero Tommy McNamara getting the first-team nod? Not present, but still must be accounted for is our top draft pick Jon Lewis who is currently with the US U-20s, playing Panama in the U-20 World Cup Qualifiers this afternoon.
We’re getting to crunch time, with the season opener less than a month away. It’s time to earn some jobs.
Tonight’s match will be televised on YES at 8pm Eastern.