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PREVIEW: New York City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

The Blues head to British Columbia clinging to scant playoff hopes, while the hometown Caps have their eyes on the Supporters' Shield.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I can hear it in your voice-- the telltale tremble which suggests equal parts skittishness and an eminent lack of confidence. But I'm here to put things in perspective.

At least New York City ain't the Philadelphia Eagles.

It's not sunny in Chipadelphia. No, sir. But there's still the slightest sunbeam slicing through the mounting inclemencies here in New York City! The Bronx Blues are still in the playoff hunt in the East, though their grasp packs all of the tensile strength of a dehydrated lemur, or perhaps Sam Bradford.

With playoff rivals Montreal seizing a crucial win Wednesday night, those playoff hopes faded even further. And looking at Saturday night's opponent, the New York City faithful find themselves staring down a damn avalanche.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, perched atop the Western Conference standings with their gaze dead-set on the 2015 Supporters' Shield, rightly strike abject fear in the hearts of NYCFC-ers far and wide, and why not? They boast three of the best young attacking talents in the league in Octavio Rivero (10 goals), Kekuta Manneh (6 goals, 5 assists), and Cristian Techera (6 goals in just over 1200 minutes). They've surrendered just 11 league goals at home on the year. They sport the indomitable David Ousted in front of the net, who led MLS in clean sheets in 2014 and was an obvious pick for the All-Star Team this year.

But this match preview is all about hope. Even the irrational kind! Hey, maybe it's because Pope Francisco -- Super Frank -- is visiting our fair city. Maybe it's because I've been slamming espresso since the early morning hours. Whatever it is, some mystical, immaterial force is telling me not to write off NYCFC just yet.

Why? Let's drop a stat bomb:

  1. The Caps have lost three of their last five league matches, and four of seven in all competitions.
  2. They've been shut out in two of their last three MLS games, 3-0 to Seattle and 2-0 at Houston.
  3. CONCACAF Champions League play is stretching Vancouver quite thin: the Caps fell 3-0 to the Sounders in CCL just four days after dropping that exact same result in league play.
These days, goals are tumbling in for New York City from the two most unlikely sources imaginable: Ned Grabavoy and Frank Lampard. Seriously! In defiance of all rational prognostication, the Bronx Blues picked up two wins in four days against playoff teams last week.

Jason Kreis knows that, even if his club misses out on the playoffs, a series of positive results to close the year will go a long, long way to solidifying his job security in 2016 (did you see Carlo Ancelotti's photo with Lampard and Andrea Pirlo???). If NYCFC limps to the finish line, Kreis might look a spitting image of Brendan Rodgers. If the Boys in Blue scratch and claw their way to a respectable finish -- let's say eight points or better over their last four games -- the gaffer might be feeling more like Aaron Rodgers.

No Discount Double Check needed-- I know which one I'd rather be.

(I mean, hell, Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a giant painting of himself hanging in his house.)

There is absolutely no reason for New York City not to play loose on Saturday night. Getting along fast, earnest, and carefree is what allowed Ned Grabavoy to bag that exceedingly improbable brace. It's what allowed the Blues to grab a crucial win without the services of David Villa. It's what permitted them to dominate a game despite rolling out Chris Wingert and R.J. Allen at fullback. It's what kept a rotated squad in the mix against the far-better-organized Cosmos on the road in the U.S. Open Cup.

With Montreal in such healthy form of late (thanks for nothing, Drogba), what does NYCFC really have to lose by throwing their caution straight into the brisk Canadian wind?

It's time to play for the sake of playing. As last week's results proved, that's really all it takes. How improbable would it be, really, to expect a little more of that sweet stuff Saturday night at B.C. Place?

"We’re just going there looking for three points," New York City bruiser Andrew Jacobson said mid-week. "That’s it. Whatever we’ve got to do to get the win, that’s what we’re going to do."

It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.

FOUR FACTS

  • New York City has scored 44 goals in 30 games, while the Whitecaps have accounted for just 40 in 29 games.

  • On the road, the Bronx Blues have lost their last five matches in a row.

  • NYCFC sports a highly favorable record against Canadian teams: two wins and a draw against Toronto, plus two wins and one loss against Montreal.

  • Two New York City players previously donned the Whitecaps shirt: Jeb Brovsky (24 appearances in 2011) and Mehdi Ballouchy (7 apps in 2014).

YOUR PARTING SHOT,

Courtesy of an immortal American: