In case you haven’t heard yet, New York City FC will travel down to Mexico this Friday to play a friendly versus Liga MX side Club Necaxa. The friendly comes during a break from MLS action but Vieira’s side is looking to keep match sharpness all the same. While this may in some ways be a money grab, and a chance for both clubs to benefit from a ticket sale spike from fans either to see the likes of David Villa and Andrea Pirlo, this could also be a good opportunity to get some faces back on the pitch that fans have not seen in some time. Here’s my list of players I’m hoping will either get the start, or a chance to play significant minutes in this Friday’s exhibition match.
Before the season started, I made a bold prediction that Johansen would start more games than Saunders in the 2016 season. Yikes. At the time it seemed to make sense, as Eirik Johansen was pretty much being used exclusively in the club’s preseason. That, apparently, seemed to have no bearing on who Patrick Vieira would start come opening day (or maybe it did). Instead it was back to status quo, with Saunders getting all MLS league match starts so far this season, and Johansen getting his lone start in the club’s Open Cup 1-0 loss to the New York Cosmos, which is almost a carbon copy of his 2015 season. Vieira was no doubt looking to go deeper in the Open Cup tournament, which would’ve given Johansen more minutes to prove himself. This friendly could be a good opportunity for Vieira to set eyes on him outside of training. Look out for Johansen to get the start this Friday.
While he has played a bit more than Johansen this season, Diego Martinez is also a bit of a forgotten man this season. Presumably entering the season as the club’s second choice left back, Vieira has instead opted for playing R.J. Allen at left back whenever Ronald Matarrita has been unavailable for the club, either due to injury or because of national team duties. With Matarrita being called up once again for the Costa Rican National team, this could be a good opportunity for Diego Martinez to impress Vieira, perhaps even earning himself a place on the match day 18 in the club’s upcoming potential playoff run.
Mikey Lopez has had a roller coaster of a season in 2016, starting off as a relatively unknown acquisition this winter, to surprising contributor, then regular starter, to now odd man out of the NYCFC midfield. A direct casualty of Frank Lampard’s return to fitness, Mikey has been little more than a late-game sub for the past couple of months. If he’s able to see the pitch, he will have to do more than be an energetic yellow card magnet if he’s going to prove his mettle for the aspiring MLS Cup contenders. A friendly like this would be a good opportunity for Mikey to show poise on the ball, and the ability to make clean tackles which can cause key turnovers to get City out on the counter.
And last but not least, Mix Diskerud. What more could I say about Mix that hasn’t already been written. Mix hasn’t seen the pitch since the club’s 1-0 defeat against the New York Cosmos back in June, a game he wasn’t given the captain’s armband. Since then Mix has not even so much as sniffed the match day 18 for Patrick Vieira’s side. Mix, for his part, has taken the lack of playing time in stride and has not made any waves about it. And he’s still loved by many fans. So...what’s the deal? Only he and the club know the true story right now.
While I wouldn’t expect to see the captain’s armband slapped on his arm in this match, this would be a good opportunity for Mix to reintegrate with the team, perhaps even making the starting XI where he can get some minutes with Villa and Pirlo again. I can’t say he’ll show Vieira anything that would overtake what he’s saw from Diskerud in training these past few months. But, hey, bottom line is if Mix can find a role on this club and succeed in it the club will be better off for it. Players like Khiry Shelton, Jefferson Mena, and Stiven Mendoza have all shown you climb back out of the proverbial doghouse when it comes to Vieira. He does not have a one strike and you’re out policy. What great timing it would be on Mix’s part if he could do something similar at this point in the season.
Let’s see what Vieira and his staff decide to do with this friendly on Friday. Otherwise, it’s back to business next week, when the club heads down to RFK Stadium to take on D.C. United Sunday, October 16th.