In the all-time Sony PlayStation RPG classic known as Final Fantasy VII, there is an enemy so egregiously dangerous -- so potent on the attack, and equally difficult to exploit on the defense -- that the game's story can be completed without ever defeating or even engaging it with it whatsoever.
The reason for this is clear: its very use in battle is the video game interpolation of a war crime. The expectation that any unsuspecting player could overcome its villainous onslaught is simply unfair and against the run of play.
That beast, a veritable Carcosa of explosive horrors rolled into a single being, is Emerald Weapon.
Sunday's matchup at Yankee Stadium has every chance to unfold with the disproportionate destruction heavily suggested by the preceding image. The only thing Emerald Weapon is missing is an XBOX sponsorship.
Indeed, the Sounders bring a number of super-weapons to the Bronx, led by MLS's foremost striker duo, United States captain Clint Dempsey and ageless Nigerian acrobat Obafemi Martins. "Deuce" has scored four goals in five games, while Martins is up to his old tricks, having found the net four times himself in the 2015 campaign.
New York City has scored five goals this year. Total.
Captain Brad Evans -- another U.S. international -- has settled into the center of the Seattle defense following a successful, extended run in the midfield, and will lead the charge to shut down New York City's famously inconsistent attacking buildup. All the way back, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei has been so stingy that Montreal looked into possibly attempting to bring him over on an insta-loan for Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League Final.
Indeed, the Bronx Blues' margin of error on Sunday, even for an expansion team, is about as narrow as narrow gets.
Already nursing a host of injuries, Jason Kreis's home squad will face the additional challenge of replacing central midfielder Andrew Jacobson, who had previously started all eight games this year. Jacobson is suspended for the match following a painfully obvious red card after flying in to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity last week in Chicago.
That means still-more squad rotation for Kreis & Co., who have had to wax creative over and over again in picking their starting lineups over NYCFC's brief history. Will this be Kwadwo Poku's chance to feature under the lights? Will Tommy "Mullet Man" McNamara seize an opportunity to let it all hang out?
All shall be revealed in front of an inevitably anxious South Bronx crowd, who haven't seen their team win a game since the middle of March.
Let's dive in!
New York City:
OUT: Javier Calle (adductor strain), George John (knee microfracture), Tony Taylor (ACL and LCL)
QUESTIONABLE: Jason Hernandez (calf strain), Adam Nemec (deltoid ligament sprain), David Villa (hip irritation)
PROBABLE: Josh Williams (adductor strain)
No injuries to report! Lucky dogs.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
New York City:
RUNNIN' THE NUMBERS
- 2: Andrew Jacobson's straight red card against Chicago was the second red overall for New York City this year. Shay Facey was sent off for a second yellow card in the latter stages of NYC's 0-0 draw against Colorado on March 21st.
- 7: Seattle's (+5) advantage over New York City (-2) in goal differential on the season.
- Less than 1: Both first-choice goalkeepers are surrendering less than one goal per game. Josh Saunders clocks in at 0.86, while Stefan Frei's goals-against average of 0.71 is the best mark in MLS.
- 213: Minutes since NYC last scored a goal. Last week's 1-0 loss in Chicago was the sky blues' fourth scoreless performance in eight games this year.
- 0.84: Though he ranks third in MLS in total goals, Clint Dempsey's 0.84 goals per ninety minutes are the highest rate in the league, edging out U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC (0.80).
- Sounders manager Sigi Schmid on the progress of goalkeeper Stefan Frei: "Stef came up to me after the game [last week vs. Portland] and said, ‘Sorry, I made that more exciting than it needed to be.’ And I said, ‘Just think back where you were a year ago, how far you’ve come.' I am just really happy for him because I think he is showing our fans here and people around the league the quality goalkeeper that he is."
- New York City gaffer Jason Kreis on his team's effort over the winless run: "I’m continually impressed by this team. They keep fighting and not giving up. I’m pleased with that. I’m pleased with the resolve and the togetherness. I wish that we had figured out a way to get a little more attack going in the second half [last week at Chicago]."
- Schmid on the performance of the increasingly stingy Seattle defense: "Last year, obviously, defensively we gave up some goals. You look at our defense [so far] this year I think we’re, if not at the top of the league, we’re very close to the top of the league. That’ll always keep you in games and give opportunities to win games."
- NYC midfielder and vice-captain Ned Grabavoy on his team's winless streak reaching six against the Fire: "I thought we put in an incredible amount of work into the match again, yet come up with nothing again point-wise. It’s difficult because we’re going through a tough stretch and not getting any results. Maybe we’re finding out a lot about ourselves as individuals and maybe that’s the most important thing going forward."
- Grabovoy on New York City's injury problems: "Once again, we have some other guys hurt. So the group is getting quite thin, and guys need to step up. Everyone needs to take accountability. We have to push forward as a group and keep doing all the things we preach and talk about every single day."
NEXT TIME ON HRB
We've got scouting reports, sound advice, Sound-er advice, and much, much more coming your way this weekend in the run up to Sunday evening's kickoff. Keep it locked on Hudson River Blue Materia, and if you see Emerald Weapon, RUN, CURSE YOU, RUN!