NEW YORK CITY, NY – With Atlanta United stumbling against New England mid-week, New York City FC have an opportunity to take back first place in the East. Orlando City SC ran off six wins in a row after NYCFC beat them 2-0 on St. Patrick’s Day. Jason Kreis‘ side is on a three-match skid coming into the weekend, while the Boys in Blue have been inconsistent since early April.
Make sure you check out this week’s MEGA NYCFC Nation Podcast, featuring appearances from Nick Chavez, Jordan Griffith & Roddy Russell Jr.
Orlando City SC (19pts, 6W-5L-1D; 5th place)
Orlando has been ravaged by injury for much of the season. Because of that, Dom Dwyer and Jonathan Spector are likely to miss this weekend (though Spector was just recently cleared for training). Add to that the World Cup absences of Yoshimar Yotún and Amro Tarek, and that’s four starters Orlando could be missing.
Three Players to Watch
1) Mohamed El-Munir (LB): El-Munir is likely Orlando’s best overall player in 2018. The Libyan Left Back is an aggressive tackler with good skill on the ball. When City last played the Lions, El-Munir had 26 more touches than his closest teammate. However, he is also sitting on 4 cautions, and will need to be conservative in his approach if he hopes to avoid suspension. Apart from Joe Bendik, El-Munir is the only Orlando player to have played every minute this season.
2) Justin Meram (F): Meram is no unknown to NYCFC fans. The former Columbus Crewman has been having a relatively quiet season by his standards, with only one goal and two assists. However, with Dwyer absent it will be up to Meram to step his game up. City can’t sleep on him.
3) Sacha Kljestan (M): Another name that haunts the memories of City fans everywhere. Sacha is still Sacha, even if he’s wearing purple. With two goals and three assists on the year, Kljestan is still the engine that drives the Orlando attack. He’s behind Yotún in the assist column 4-3, but with Yoshi absent the responsibility to create falls to the Bond Villain alone.
New York City FC (24pts, 7W-3L-3D; 3rd place)
New York City is coming off an extremely disappointing loss in Houston that reflected the club’s inconsistency of late. Repeating his formation change to a 3-5-2 backfired spectacularly, as the Houston attack ran roughshod all over City. Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita have both departed for the World Cup, and Yangel Herrera will likely be out for an extended period of time. That leaves openings for some players to get anxiously-awaited minutes.
In training this week, Patrick Vieira mentioned both Tommy McNamara and Kwame Awuah as players that have been performing well and could see time. Jo Inge Berget was called up for Norway but declined, favoring remaining with his club. It was also reported that Maxime Chanot – missing with an undisclosed injury since being subbed out of the Red Bull match – would have been called for Luxembourg, but the club would not allow his release.
Berget remaining with City may push back the much-awaited 2018 debut of Jonathan Lewis, but with an Open Cup match coming up mid-week, minutes might still be in the cards for the young American.
Three Match-ups to Watch
1) David Villa vs. Orlando’s Back-up Centerbacks: With both Jonathan Spector and Amro Tarek out, it would be a complicated enough situation for Kreis. Spector’s back-up, Lamine Sane is also listed as “Questionable” heading into this match with a knee injury. Should both officially be out for this match, it will create a golden opportunity for Villa to feast.
2) Alex Ring vs. Sacha Kljestan: Two players who love getting into the heads of their opponents going at each other for 90 minutes? Sign me up. I’ll be shocked if one or both players don’t end up on caution.
3) Jesus Medina vs. Mohamed El-Munir: Medina managed an assist the last time these two faced off, and with a largely second-choice defense on the docket, it may fall to El-Munir to do a lot of work on his own. Medina will get advantageous looks if El-Munir has to cheat inside to protect against Villa. Hopefully we see a stellar match from the young Paraguayan after a few lackluster performances recently.