NEW YORK CITY, NY – After a disappointing draw Wednesday night against Toronto, New York City FC hosts Chicago Fire SC on a short turnaround Saturday afternoon. Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.
Tale of the Tape
Chicago Fire SC (11-3-5)
Chicago’s 38 points from 19 matches have them in second place in the East. Seated behind Toronto but with a game in hand, the Fire are unbeaten in eleven straight matches dating back to the end of April. They are owners of the third-stingiest Goals Against mark in the league with only 19, and lead MLS averaging two points per game. Chicago’s crown jewel is Serbian standout Nemanja Nikolic, who currently leads the league in scoring with 16 goals.
The Fire will be without defensive midfielder Dax McCarty, who is away with the U.S. Men’s National Team for the Gold Cup.
New York City FC (10-6-4)
After Wednesday’s match, New York City has 34 points from 20 matches and sits in third place in the East behind Chicago. They’ve taken points from eight of their last eleven matches, boasting the second-best attack in MLS with 38 goals (Atlanta is at the top with 39). David Villa added to his team-leading goal tally last match, bringing him to 13 total for 2017.
Injury Bug, Short Rest Leaves City Thin
Despite the knowledge Chicago was coming into town only three days later, Patrick Vieira decided against utilizing all three of his substitutions Wednesday night. While City is a decidedly younger team than they were even a year ago and coming off a week-long Gold Cup break, one has to wonder what level of fitness we can expect.
July has not been kind to the NYCFC roster. Both Rodney Wallace and Miguel Camargo returned from their national teams carrying injuries. Wallace is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, while Camargo is very likely done for the season. James Sands will be out for five weeks following an ASIS Apophysitis injury. Add to those the injuries to Ronald Matarrita and Khiry Shelton and suddenly NYCFC is very thin.
Also appearing on the injury report is centerback Maxime Chanot who will be a late decision Saturday morning.
These injuries open the door for Jon Lewis to perhaps get a shot to start versus Chicago. With Tommy McNamara playing 73 minutes Wednesday night, it’s not ridiculous to suggest.
Battles to Watch
Yangel Herrera vs. Bastian Schweinsteiger: The former German captain and World Cup winner has been at the forefront of Chicago’s worst-to-first story in 2017. Herrera has been less the stay-at-home, defense-first midfielder some had expected and taken on a box-to-box role for City. The Venezuelan youngster will find an aging but still formidable opponent in Schweinsteiger – one he would do well to emulate. In a battle of Classic-versus-Up-and-Comer, Herrera will need to leverage his youth and vision if he’s going to come out on top.
Alex Ring vs. Nemanja Nikolic: Ring has been tasked with marking some of the best strikers in the league. Nikolic is the league leader in scoring and will get his opportunities. It will be up to Ring to limit his chances and make him uncomfortable. Should Chanot be rested Saturday afternoon, Ring’s presence at the back becomes even more important than it’s already been this season.
Jack Harrison & Ethan White/RJ Allen vs. David Accam: While Nikolic gets his opportunities every match, Accam is no slouch either. With 10 goals and 7 assists in 17 appearances for Chicago, the Ghanian winger will be utilized heavily. Should White get the start he’ll need plenty of help from Harrison and Maxi Moralez to limit Accam’s chances. Allen has the foot speed to compete with Accam, but can he defend him effectively without putting himself in foul trouble?
Chicago Fire SC (4-2-3-1): Lampson; Polster, Kappelhof, Meira, Vincent; Juninho, Schweinsteiger; Solignac, de Leeuw, Accam; Nikolic
New York City FC (4-3-3): Johnson; Sweat, Callens, Chanot, Allen; Herrera, Moralez, Ring; McNamara, Villa, Harrison