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PREVIEW: New York City vs. Philadelphia -- "FIRST BLOOD, PART TWO"

For the second time in less than a week, the Bronx Blues square off against the Union. After dropping all three points Saturday on the banks of the Delaware River, New York City will be feeling the pressure upon their return to Yankee Stadium.

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Stoppage time hammer-blows. Set piece stunners. Butt goals.

Yes, New York City has dropped points in the most stunning, occasionally inane fashions over the course of their young history.

That butt goal, though.

Zach Pfeffer's posterior aside, NYC will be feeling the pressure to get back into the win column tonight in the Bronx: Jason Kreis's team has lost two straight, and hasn't earned a point in the standings since a 0-0 draw at Colorado on March 21st.

A common thread in just about every match? Slow starts. First halves have been largely forgettable for New York's newest team.

"Another match where I thought we wasted 45 minutes," NYC head coach Jason Kreis following Saturday's loss. "For whatever reason, I don’t know the answer to it, and I don’t think anyone has it just yet, but we have to figure it out pretty quickly. We can’t seem to start a match the right way."

Added central defender Jason Hernandez: "We look like two teams in every match. The first half we kind of look like we’re sleep-walking a little bit and the second half we seemed to play more of our style and look more like ourselves."

Compounding the issue tonight is the burden on Kreis & Co. to replace Mix Diskerud, as the young midfielder was summoned to start for the U.S. National Team on Wednesday evening in a friendly match against Mexico.

But don't go memorizing all those Kwadwo Poku chants just yet: the ever-cryptic Mix hasn't ruled out a triumphant NYC return on short rest.

Oh, Mixy. You rascal.

Even if Diskerud is available for selection tonight, it's hard to conceive of him making the start right after logging eighty minutes against Mexico down in South Texas. That means a Diskerud-shaped hole in Jason Kreis's starting eleven. That might mean Javier Calle. That might mean -- alas, alack -- Mehdi Ballouchy.

(Ballouchy, a former New York Red Bull with a penchant for passing the ball sideways and backward, is the personification of the limits of an expansion team. The embodiment of "Has it Really Come To This.)

Hudson River Blue isn't immune to playing favorites, and we wouldn't mind at all if tonight's re-Mixed rotation included key minutes for Tommy McNamara. The former Chivas USA man -- and current Hair Champion -- can cover a lot of ground in the central midfield, and brought a spark with him off the bench in the closing minutes of NYC's 1-0 home defeat to Sporting Kansas City three weeks ago.

Whoever ends up trotting onto the pitch for tonight's 7:00 PM kickoff, the objectives for this team are clear:

  • Better intent and organization in the first half: too many weak starts means too few positive results.
  • No more empty possession: keeping the ball means nothing if it doesn't take pressure off the back line and lead to chances in the final third of the field.
  • Playing the full width of the pitch: NYC needs to find someone, anyone who can create crosses, as opponents have gotten comfortable barricading the top of the eighteen-yard box.

The Bronx Blues have been gifted an opportunity to rinse away the sour aftertaste of last weekend's 2-1 defeat at PPL Park, in which the Union struck their winning goal in the veritable Carcosa known as stoppage time. Alternatively, they could be in store for a double-dose of torment.

Philly drew first blood.

It's time for New York's newest team to strike back before this franchise runs out of sequels.