FOXBOROUGH, MA – New York City FC will hit the road once again to take on New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium this Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm. City – on a 3-match win streak and having their best opening to a season in club history – will look to continue their good fortune against a New England side that is somewhat in flux.
New England Revolution
Brand-new MLS coach Brad Friedel has made it no secret that the name on the back of the shirt doesn’t matter to him – you have to earn your spot on this New England side. None has proven Friedel’s point moreso than third-year goalkeeper Matt Turner – who took over the net for the once-national-team-hopeful Cody Cropper. Turner has played well with a mish-mash of defenders in front of him. Referee Rubiel Vazquez flashed a red to both Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna, who will be returning to the lineup after serving their suspension.
Mix-and-match hasn’t hampered the New England defense, however, with Chris Tierney and Andrew Farrell, along with midfielder Wilfried Zahibo all playing reasonably well in front of Turner.
Saturday will see a return to what has become normal for New England, but they will still likely be without midfield mainstay Lee Nguyen. Nguyen, who came to camp three weeks late after a very public request for a trade, has been deemed unfit by Friedel and will not be part of the team’s plans until he can hit prescribed “fitness marks.” The New England skipper has made it clear that Nguyen’s training is not punishment – he just needs to get himself to the level of the rest of the squad before he’ll be considered again.
The Revolution’s style is to attack down the wings and make long passes into dangerous areas for players like Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury or Juan Agudelo to convert. New England still finds themselves without a proven goal-scorer at the top since losing Kei Kamara in the offseason. Together, Kamara and Nguyen combined to score 23 goals last season and the Revolution have not made a real effort to improve in that area. They’ve recently signed Ecuadorian Cristian Penilla on loan from Pachuca, but he hasn’t yet had the impact the Revs may have been hoping for.
New York City FC
Our Boys in Blue are cruising through the first three weeks of the season. With nine out of nine points, Patrick Vieira has City on their way to their best-ever start. While NYCFC may have absence problems of their own – David Villa may be missing for a second straight week – we may finally get the long-awaited debut of Jo Inge Berget. Berget was out with an illness last week against Orlando but has been a full participant in training this week. Anton Tinnerholm should also be returning, and will help shut down those pesky attacks from the wing.
International absences for City include Alex Ring and Rodney Wallace. Ring will likely be replaced by newcomer Ebenezer Ofori, who made his debut two weeks ago with a substitution against the LA Galaxy. The logical sub for Wallace would have been Berget, but seeing that Villa may also be unavailable, look for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi on the outside once again, earning another start after his first MLS goal last week. Ronald Matarrita appears to have a hamstring injury that will sideline the Costa Rican for an extended period of time. While Matarrita has had multiple injuries over the last year or so, thankfully none of them have been repeats. That should stave off the “injury prone” label for a time, but his health is certainly something to be monitored.
NYCFC presents New England’s toughest challenge so far this season. Falling 0-2 to Philadelphia, and then defeating (narrowly) Colorado 2-1 doesn’t exactly inspire fear in the Revolution’s opponents. But make no mistake, NYCFC need to maintain the high level of quality they’ve established early this year. The depth of this team has shown up very well, but similarly, City has played clubs that are inferior on paper (with the possible exception of Sporting Kansas City). The MLS Cup is won by winning the matches you’re supposed to, and right now it looks as if the only team that can beat NYCFC is themselves. Focus and execution will be key.
New England Revolution (4-2-3-1): Turner; Somi, Dielna, Delamea, Farrell; Zahibo, Caldwell; Penilla, Fagundez, Rowe; Agudelo
New York City FC (4-3-3): Johnson; Sweat, Callens, Chanot, Tinnerholml; Herrera, Moralez, Ofori; Tajouri-Shradi, Berget, Medina