EAST HARTFORD, CT – It’s finally here. The controversial “home” match between New York City FC and Houston Dynamo will be played this weekend at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Let’s take a look.
David Villa released a plea to fans earlier this week, reminding them that support is an important part of the game. While the location is obviously not ideal, the club – and some supporter’s groups – are providing what aid they can. Villa’s message was met mostly with praise, but it remains to be seen if he’s changed anyone’s mind.
Villa will also be responsible for picking his team up. In his absence, the Pigeons are faltering some after a home loss to Portland and last week’s draw in Colorado. His return to the Starting XI should coincide with a return to form for the club. While City has created some chances without Villa, they’ve been out-shot 26-23 in their last two matches. Shots on target have been even worse, where City is down 15-8 in the same period.
Coach Patrick Vieira echoed the sentiment held by many fans this season in his comments this week.
“What we need to do is just take our chances. The last game we played, I was really happy with the intensity, with the way that we played in possession and out of possession. The key for us is to score the chances we’re creating.”
NYCFC will have three players returning from injury against the Dynamo. Ronald Matarrita has finally been cleared after his unfortunate foot fracture, suffered the day he came back from a high-ankle sprain on the opposite foot. Mikey Lopez and Ethan White are also healthy once again. Maxime Chanot and Yangel Herrera could also be spotted at training – limited to rehab drills for now, but a good sign that the Boys in Blue will be ready for the playoffs.
Alex Ring is still listed as Questionable for this weekend, as his toe injury appears to be lingering. James Sands will be available for selection one final time before heading to India for the U-17 World Cup.
The question remains: with Matarrita’s return, what does the NYCFC back line look like? Ben Sweat has more than earned his playing time so far this season. While Sweat and Matarrita have different styles, both have proven sound defensive options for City. It’s possible that Matarrita retains his spot on the left, with Sweat shifting to the right side. Don’t be surprised to see some mix-and-match through the end of the season.
The Big Picture
City will need every point they can get from their last five matches. Atlanta United won decisively again in a midweek match against LA Galaxy, putting the Five Stripes just five points behind. To avoid playing a one-match playoff, City will need to at least keep pace with Atlanta through the end of the season.
Houston is in a more desperate spot in the West. While NYCFC are fighting to retain the bye, the Dynamo have fallen below the line after going winless over the last month. Poised for a triumphant return after the first ten games of the season, Wilmer Cabrera‘s boys have struggled with consistency. Their 2017 campaign is head-scratching at best, with four-goal wins over the likes of FC Dallas and Red Bull, and more recently a 3-0 victory over San Jose, but also losses to teams in the bottom half like Philadelphia and Colorado.
Saturday afternoon will see two teams fighting hard for their chance at MLS Cup glory.
If only they had an arena to match.