Let's DO this, DJ Premier:
Indeed, the NY state of mind has permeated Orlando, and it's not just the retirees this time.
After nearly two years of promises and the creeping kind of nervous excitement that would accompany a first date or the moments before Shannon Elizabeth takes off her top in American Pie, New York City FC will take the field with a real result on the line. 61,000 will pack the Florida Citrus Bowl to absorb what has been promised as the second-highest regular season attendance in MLS history.
The Bowl-fillers called Orlando City Soccer Club are a fellow expansion team in name only. They logged four seasons in the third-tier USL, winning three regular season titles and two league championships. Additionally, their organizational structure and supporter culture have had more than five years to work out the kinks.
With that in mind, will New York City enter this game thinking that, say, a 1-1 draw would be an acceptable result? Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez had this to say:
It's going to be real quiet when we score, and once we win that game, it's going to be even more quiet."
Jason Kreis, who managed Real Salt Lake to two MLS Cups and now works in the largest and most judgmental media market ever conceived, will not be doing any politicking in this game. No working-of-the-angles. He's going to try to win. Whether or not this fixture feels like a rivalry two or five or fifty years from now, the fans' forecast calls for heat today. It's going to be muggy. Salty. A victory today would be one of outsized significance.
Projecting Your Starting XI
Well, this is what the Hudson River Blue Hubert Farnsworth Edition What-If Machine spat out for us, anyway.
In the midfield, Jason Kreis has shown love for Mehdi Ballouchy on the right, so there's a chance we'll see him pairing up with Mix. The buzzworthy tandem of Javier Calle and Kwadwo Poku will be available to shape-shift the formation when the time comes. We'll set the odds of Poku starting at 9/1.
Andres Mendoza has not been a favorite of ours in the preseason, but we'll trust Kreis's recent lineups and give him the nod alongside Jason Hernandez. Mustache champion Jeb Brovsky and Manchester City loanee Shay Facey can slide into a few different spots on the back line.
Fans will be clamoring for rookie forward Khiry Shelton if New York City finds itself in need of a second half stunner, but HRB considers appearances by former New England Revs Patrick Mullins or Tony Taylor to be more likely. The smooth-dribbling Taylor, for his part, can hop back to the Velasquez role in the attacking midfield.
How to Beat Orlando City
In what appears to be a joke awaiting an inevitable punchline, Brek Shea has made a home at Orlando City playing left back.
Chile exposed Shea's liabilities as a defender during their friendly match against the U.S. Men's team in January, and Jason Kreis's squad ought to try to do the same. That's why we like Velasquez playing off Mix on the right-- New York City needs to put pressure on Shea and force him backpedaling early.
Stamina has also been an occasional issue for the Orlando City man. In the last twenty minutes, his pace often bottoms out, blunting a major component of his game. New York City should do its best to run him ragged and force a substitution-- a symbolic victory for a historic, nationally-televised debut match.
Prepare for the Game the HRB Way
- Find BUT DO NOT STEAL a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 console and do one of these on FIFA 15 (thanks to our friends at the Mane Land for the photo):
- More Illmatic, Biggie Smalls, and the Young 'Hova Sean Corey Carter, the God MC. Spike your chalice with some outer-borough love.
- Wu-Tang Killa Beez, Beastie Boys for sure. Black Star on repeat. KRS-One. The Lox, Dipset, all of 'em. Hell, maybe the Beatnuts.
- Find a bowl and fill it. Really cut loose on that one.
- Listen to the underground musical podcast sensation, SPHERICAL-- the final nail in the coffin of NYCFC's twisting, turning pre-debut history.
- Time for a sandwich. I'm thinking caprese? Drizzle of balsamic on there?
- Recall that Orlando City's fan contingent at January's MLS SuperDraft were the the first to taunt New York City supporters with a "WHERE'S FRANK LAMPARD" chant.
- Re-live the Mix Master's Ritual:
- Check out ESPNFC's MLS predictions for the playoffs and all the individual and team trophies, starring Liverpool legend Stevie Nicol, ubiquitous basketball reporter and Manchester City fan Marc Stein, U.S. Men's National Team veteran Stuart Holden, and today's match commentator for ESPN2, Adrian Healey.
- If you're a member of the Third Rail Supporters' Club, a free agent, or bi-curious, the group made a helpful cheat sheet for songs and chants. They will be commencing festivities in Manhattan this afternoon at Nevada Smith's on 3rd Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets (Thanks to TRSC's Ross Cranwell for the photo):
- Drink something from New York. If it's tap water, that's fine. That's actually probably the best plan. Schaeffer? That's a good one. Cold-pressed juice featuring vegetables from the Empire State? Sock it to me. Counter Culture Coffee, Brooklyn Pennant Ale, Greenhook Gin, Kings County Distillery's signature moonshine? I dunno. Maybe tap water. Today, the world is yours. Drink it in.
- Play another ten or twelve matches on FIFA 15, and send your best formations/goals/choregraphed celebrations etc. to @hudsonriverblue on Twitter.
- OK. You might be ready.
It all begins at 5pm on ESPN2 and WFAN radio. Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman will have the TV call. After fighting through six MLS matchups yesterday without a single one on national television, the Worldwide Leader has a chance to go a long way in proving that its commitment to Major League Soccer is indeed major, and we all get to play our small part today.
Whether you're filling the bowl down in the Sunshine State, watching with homies old and new throughout the Tri-State Area and beyond, or headphone'd up and following along online, enjoy this one, be safe, and remember that the Beautiful Game is beautiful because you are.
A debut only happens once, ye Celestes. So bring the ruckus*.