Much like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Saturday's contest places Canada and America side by side, with an added dose of déjà vu.
New York City took both earlier contests against l'Impact. Kwadwo Poku starred at Yankee Stadium in a 3-1 win on June 13th, while David Villa's brace powered the visitors to a 2-1 victory on July 4th in Montreal.
Frank Klopas's side, who sit even on points with New York City but hold three games in hand, are grinning ear-to-ear this week on the news that legendary Chelsea striker Didier Drogba had signed to bolster the Quebecois' attack. The Ivorian star man may not be fit to debut Saturday, however-- he didn't touch down in Montreal until Wednesday.
New York City will hope, at long last, to welcome a Chelsea legend of their own: yes, Frank James Lampard may be set to log his first minutes in the NYCFC shirt. For the record, Lamps was announced as a New York City player on July 24th.
Of last year.
Take heart! Our friend Dylan Butler of MLSSoccer.com had this to report from the New York City training ground:
Kreis on Lampard: "We’ve built him up throughout the week. Today, as you saw, he trained full so he’s in contention for tomorrow." #NYCFC— Dylan Butler (@Dylan_Butler) July 31, 2015
Of course, we'll only believe it when it happens. But if the famously stern, stone-faced Jason Kreis is feeling bullish, it may as well be cause for another ticker-tape parade.
Lampard projects to join a New York City midfield bursting with intent on the heels of Andrea Pirlo's half-hour master class in the second half of last weekend's rampant 5-3 win over Orlando City. The Italian maestro was in like flint, linking up with Kwadwo Poku to unlock the field like a skeleton key.
Pirlo's touch, vision, and awareness represented a new level of class for the Bronx Blues. Let's summarize his contributions over just thirty-four minutes on the pitch:
- Held the ball up and dominated possession in the middle of the pitch, allowing attackers to negotiate proper field spacing, especially in the wide areas.
- Provided the assist to the assist on goals by David Villa and Tommy McNamara.
- Flashed some dribbling tricks and a spin move for good measure.
- Led the team in both touches and passes per minute.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Kreis will find a way to incorporate Lampard into the fun, even if it means re-designating Poku as a super-sub or even shifting Mix Diskerud to a reserve role. The Mix Master only recently returned from international duty with the United States' Gold Cup squad.
Having already leaked five goals against NYCFC through two games, including three by David Villa alone, Montreal's back four will be facing bigger pressure than ever. Led by MLS All-Star Laurent Ciman, the margin for error for the visiting defense projects to be nearly non-existent. We saw last week that New York City, with all its new blood, is finally developing a taste for springing counter-attacks. With all the athleticism it has to call upon in buildup play -- namely Angelino, Diskerud, Poku, and McNamara -- New York City may find themselves running rampant against the Impact yet again.
Can Montreal number ten Ignacio Piatti and deep man Marco Donadel create enough chances against NYCFC's inconsistent defense? Will Didier Drogba make a cameo appearance in the latter stages of the game as Pirlo did for the Bronx Blues last weekend? Can New York's newest team complete its first season sweep of an MLS opponent?
Get happy, NYC-ers. There's a hell of a lot to play for, isn't there? As CSNY mused:
"Carry on, Lamps is coming, Lamps is coming to us all."
OK, I paraphrased. But you get it.
INJURED & ABSENT
New York City:
OUT: Connor Brandt (right adductor), Chris Wingert (right hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: Frank Lampard (left calf), Khiry Shelton (left quad)
SUSPENDED: Mehdi Ballouchy (yellow card accumulation)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
New York City:
RUNNIN' THE NUMBERS
- 10: Goals for David Villa over New York City's last nine games. He's achieved a brace in three of the last five league fixtures.
- $9,000,000: Combined pro-rated 2015 salaries for former Chelsea teammates Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, who have yet to play for their respective teams leading up to Saturday's tilt.
- $60,000: 2015 salary figure for Kwadwo Poku, who leads New York City with six league assists and was named to the most recent MLS Team of the Week.
- 0: League wins for Montreal this season when surrendering the first goal. Additionally, neither of Saturday's teams has won a league game when trailing at the half.
- -2: Current goal differential for both teams in MLS play.
- 1st: MLS assist for Angelino and MLS goal for Javier Calle last weekend vs. Orlando City.
- 9: Combined goals for New York City over the last two home games. Previously, their record for goals in a game stood at 3.