It's time to wash away the awful, pestiferous, well-nigh execrable taste of last night's USMNT loss to Guatemala from our mouths. We'll have to deal with that soon enough again, anyway; how's Tuesday night in Columbus sound?
Anyway: enough of that.
This afternoon, New York City FC takes on the New England Revolution at home in Yankee Stadium. A little over a year ago, the Blues beat the Revs 2-0 for their first-ever MLS win. A solid win; workmanlike. After the frustration of last Friday's 1-0 loss to Orlando, where New York City dominated the run of play but lost on a freak facial goal by Cyle Larin, both the Blues and their fans would gladly take a workaday win.
That might be tougher than it sounds, though. Cliché though it may be, the foundation stones of any winning team involve scrapping for results on the road combined with a stout defense of the home castle. There, New York City hasn't fared as well as they might. The Blues are winless in their last three home games: the loss to Orlando, a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC that should've been a win...and that listless 3-1 loss to the Revolution to close out last season. That loss clinched then-coach Jason Kreis' sacking, as he vainly maintained that there were signs of life in the wreckage.
That's not something that Patrick Vieira needs to worry about. He's under no Damoclean danger. What made losing to Orlando so aggravating was how threatening New York City were throughout the game. By any observation, that should've, could've been a 3-1 or 4-1 triumph for the Blues. It wasn't; the ball is round and the game is 90 minutes long and it changes direction all along, but on Friday, that direction decidedly pointed to a Blues' win. It happens that it didn't. And so it goes.
New England come to the Bronx winless on the season: two draws and a loss. I know not what to make of this Revs team; on the day, Charlie Davies is a threat to score at his leisure. Lee Nguyen is probably the best number 10 in the American player pool, but it's a good thing that Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't see fit to call him up, lest he play him as a left back or something. But like last season, and the one before that, they've been slow to get going, the Revs have.
Here's where things leave me confident for today: six and six. New York City have scored six goals in three games, tied for third in MLS. New England, conversely, have surrendered six goals on the road, highest in the league. Wait, there's more: against Orlando, the Blues attempted 631 passes, and completed 82.7% of them, a sign of how quickly the team is jelling together. And here's the cherry on the sundae: every time the Blues play Orlando, David Villa scores in the next match.
All that leaves me confident for today's game. As it does for Vieira, who said in previewing the game:
"It's been a really interesting week because I'm learning more about the players. This has been really good. This is what I was expecting from players coming back after the game, really determined, working hard this week because the result wasn't the one we wanted. The reaction we had this week was really positive and I can't wait for the game on Saturday. I think the fans should just remember this is a new football club we're trying to build here. What is important for fans is for them to see how the team works hard on the field."
That last part is key. Last season, I lost track of how many times giving up a goal would render the Blues frustrated, if not straight up dejected. That's not been the case this season, so far. All that was missing on Friday was a goal (or three); I expect that to change today.
What else is changing? The lineup. Mix Diskerud, Rónald Matarrita, Khiry Shelton, and Jason Hernandez are all missing due to national team commitments. Does that mean we'll finally see Kwadwo Poku take the field? Perhaps. One thing that points to doubt is the fact that Poku doesn't look like a player who exerts maximum effort in practice. He'd rather leave that for the game. In a podcast released earlier this week, Blues commentator Glenn Crooks noted that Vieira was riding Poku hard in practice for that reason.
Regardless, the missing players mean that Vieira will be reshuffling the lineup a bit. With Matarrita missing, I expect we'll see Diego Martinez make his first start. Federico Bravo is listed as questionable on the injury report; I spoke to him after the game on Friday, and while he didn't make much of his injury, I'd expect the medical staff to be conservative in their approach. Here's how I see things shaping up:
Yes, I think Vieira sticks with the 3-2-2-3 (aka, the W-M). Why not? It suits the narrow environs of Yankee Stadium, and Andrea Pirlo has been ever more effective within it. I have Mikey Lopez, whom Vieira really likes, slotting in as Pirlo's midfield cover in lieu of Bravo, should he not play. McNamara gets the start, but I suspect that Vieira pairs him with Mehdi Ballouchy instead of Poku. I think Poku sees some game time today, but not a start; he hasn't earned it, in Vieira's eyes.
Up top, Taylor is on the left wing, Villa runs point, and Stiven Mendoza gets his first of what should be many, many starts.
It should be a beautiful spring day at Yankee Stadium, and I think this lineup suits the day. I think the Blues get back to winning ways today. Game time is 3 p.m. EDT.