VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – New York City FC will look to set a club record and win their fifth match in a row Wednesday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Tale of the Tape
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Whitecaps find themselves at 6-7-3 with 21 points from 16 matches. Not quite good enough to get over the line in the West, the ‘Caps are knocking on the door of a playoff spot midway through, only a point behind LA Galaxy with a game in hand.
Vancouver is 4-4-2 at BC Place, and 1-2-2 in their last five matches, with their last win coming June 3rd against Atlanta United. Their last match, however, was a complete disaster. The ‘Caps managed to fall behind the red-hot Chicago Fire 3-0 in the span of ten minutes, letting up the first score at 14′ and the third at 25′. They would also lose a man – Matias Laba – toward the end of the match and give up a fourth to make the final 4-0. Laba will serve his suspension Wednesday night.
New York City FC
NYCFC matched a club-best winning streak last Thursday night, defeating Minnesota United to make it four in a row for the second time in club history. City have a record of 10-5-3 – good enough for 33 points and third place in the East. They trail Toronto FC by two, and Chicago by four points, with a crucial three-game stretch against both clubs coming up on the other side of the Gold Cup break. Goals from Jack Harrison, Alex Callens and David Villa sealed the win for City after an unsettling early goal from the Loons’ Christian Ramirez. Once they got going, though, there was no doubt among the players as to which side would come out on top.
The Boys in Blue are once again road warriors, owners of a 4-4-1 record away from Yankee Stadium, still the second best mark in the league behind Los Angeles. They have won both meetings against Vancouver, first at the end of 2015 (2-1) and then early last year (3-2) in the Bronx.
How They Line Up
The Whitecaps generally line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation that can shift in different phases to a 4-4-2. There have been times this season where they start out in the 4-4-2. As noted before, they will be missing Laba to his red card suspension, but Vancouver also loses four players to the Gold Cup: Sam Adekugbe, Marcel de Jong, Alphonso Davies, and Russel Tiebert. Of those, Tiebert regularly starts in the midfield, while de Jong and Davies routinely appear on the bench. City fans will also be familiar with Andrew Jacobson, who has been plugging holes in the ‘Caps’ XI, moving between midfield duties and the back line.
City, of course, line up in a familiar 4-3-3. Good news on the player front this week, as Maxi Moralez returned to full-participation in training and traveled with the team to Vancouver. He is listed as “Questionable” on the NYCFC injury report. This is City’s last match before the Gold Cup break, so don’t expect Moralez to start – but he may get some minutes late if the situation warrants. Apart from Maxi, NYCFC will also be without injured Khiry Shelton and Ronald Matarrita. Gold Cup call absences include Sean Johnson, Miguel Camargo and Rodney Wallace.
Vancouver’s 4-1-4-1 gives them a lot of options on the wide parts of the field, though they tend to shuttle the ball through the middle. The absence of Matias Laba presents a potential issue on the defensive side of the ball, and lack of depth means Carl Robinson is limited in his choices for a replacement. Even with an extra man in that midfield, City’s strength in the center is a difficult task for any club. Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera provide strength and control, as well as plus distribution to the likes of Jack Harrison and possibly Tommy McNamara (or Jon Lewis) on the wings – where lack of speed hurts Vancouver in defense.
Long balls into the box from both the outside and the middle will need to be either intercepted by Maxime Chanot and Alex Callens or simply not allowed to make it to the box by Ring and Herrera. The City attack will definitely get their opportunities, but they have to finish them – a problem that’s plagued them earlier in the season, but the club has managed to score at least twice in six of their last seven matches.
In the end, City should be able to soundly defeat a depleted Vancouver side that has trouble scoring at all. Villa and Harrison, as well as McNamara will have to step up their presence in the box without Wallace there to be the physical presence. Don’t be surprised to see an appearance from Ugo Okoli if Patrick Vieira needs a late score.
Prediction: 2-0 to City