NEW YORK CITY, NY – In a match historically won by the visitor, New York City FC will try to flip the script on Portland Timbers FC Saturday night in the Bronx.
Injury Woes Continue
After a harrowing victory over Sporting Kansas City only three days before, NYCFC’s injury situation hasn’t improved at all. While encouraging news emerged this week that Ronald Matarrita has returned to training, City remains without starters Maxime Chanot and Ethan White. Things actually got worse for the Pigeons, as Yangel Herrera came back from international duty with a “pubalgia” (a fancy word for a sports hernia) injury and will be unavailable.
There was some good news this week, however. Both Alex Ring and David Villa were upgraded to “Questionable” after missing Wednesday’s match. Villa’s adductor strain is being evaluated day-to-day, while Ring’s toe injury may be improving to the point of inclusion Saturday night.
Portland coach Caleb Porter said earlier this week that the Timbers would also be missing a few key players. Captain Liam Ridgewell, who returned to training this week, isn’t 90-minute fit according to Porter. The Timbers will also be missing starting striker Fanendo Adi (hamstring) and ‘keeper Jake Gleeson.
Keep It Going
As well as Jonathan Lewis has been playing, NYCFC will be glad to have Rodney Wallace back in the lineup. Villa’s potential absence removes some killer instinct from the front that City’s young wingers just haven’t developed yet. Wallace’s inclusion should open things up for a hopefully-resurgent Jack Harrison, whose goal Wednesday night was his first since June 29th.
Frederic Brillant had perhaps his best match in City blue this week, leading the defense with 5 clearances. Add to that 3 interceptions, a blocked shot, and even 2 shots (1 on goal), and the Frenchman defined the notion of “Step Up.” It’ll be a different beast this weekend, as this game is likely to be won in the midfield. Diego Valeri leads Portland in scoring (16 goals) followed by Adi (10). After that, however, the drop-off is steep (Sebastian Blanco is 3rd with 5).
Ideally, Ring will be available to help stop Portland’s midfield before they can get going. There will likely be some change in the middle for City, however. Asking Andrea Pirlo to go 90 minutes in back-to-back games on short rest is a non-starter. That means – should Ring not be available – Kwame Awuah or James Sands may get their first MLS start. Both appeared on the team sheet against Sporting, though neither would come on. The possibility also exists that John Stertzer could get an opportunity, as Patrick Vieira has opted to use him more often than his youth.
After the Sporting match, Awuah was clearly upset he didn’t get to play. In a move that he’s used before, Vieira only utilized 2 of his substitutes with a match only 3 days later. Perhaps the Canadian international will get the opportunity to prove himself Saturday.