New York City FC kicks off the 2017 campaign against their expansion partners, Orlando City SC in what will serve as the Grand Opening of the Lions’ new 25,500 seat stadium. Here are some things to watch for:
Much has been made of the many late arrivals to NYCFC’s preseason camp this year. With only one match under their belt, the likely Starting XI will no doubt have some growing pains. Head Coach Patrick Vieira has a choice to make in the midfield, as the almost-sure inclusion of Maxi Moralez behind the forwards leaves room for only two of Andrea Pirlo, Alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera. You have to believe that Pirlo would be an automatic inclusion in the first match of the season, but don’t be surprised to see him subbed out for Herrera if City have to protect a lead away from home.
Defending from the Front
Vieira has made it a point to strengthen the quality of our midfield defensively, and we saw the fruits of some of that labor in the last match action for the Boys in Blue against Sporting Kansas City. Ring, along with Rodney Wallace and to a lesser extent Moralez have all shown they’re not afraid to make contact and stop attacks before they get started. It will take a group effort from the midfield and wingers to stop the ball from making it to NYCFC-nemesis Cyle Larin, and an even greater effort to stop Kaká from getting comfortable and dictating the pace of the game. Orlando will be without starting defender Rafael Ramos and midfielder Cristian Higuita, so a less-than-full-strength roster is something of which City should take advantage.
Actions Speak Louder
The squad faces a monumental task in trying to defeat the Lions in Orlando – a place they’ve never won – in a brand new, sold-out stadium. Orlando’s fans aren’t exactly librarians – they are one of the most well-attended clubs in MLS, and they always bring the noise. Putting Jason Kreis’s squad on their heels early will go a long way to mitigating that raucous atmosphere, and should help the new guys settle in. Even an early goal will only deflate the atmosphere for so long – consistent, menacing pressure should be the name of the game. With an attacking trio of Moralez, David Villa and Jack Harrison, pressure shouldn’t be a problem.
While Maxime Chanot does have match experience against Orlando (one match played last season), he hasn’t had the pleasure of defending Cyle Larin. That means that both Chanot and Alexander Callens have an opportunity to change City’s fortune when it comes to the Canadian phenom and his six goals in four matches against. It will be interesting to see how the CB pairing deals with Larin, as well as Kaká. They will need all the help they can get from the midfield, as Kaká has performed well in his own right against City (three goals, one assist in six matches).
NYCFC takes on Orlando Sunday night at 5pm Eastern. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.