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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

The Blues' road trip rolls into Chester, where the new-look Union have only conceded one goal in two games.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It's rarely sunny in Chester, owing to the fact that it's just a bunny hop from the New Jersey border.

(It ought to be noted that the man who made this song, Jeru the Damaja, is from Brooklyn.)

New York City enters this afternoon's tilt at Talen Energy Stadium on the hunt for blue skies: Patrick Vieira's team hasn't won since opening day. That was six weeks ago. As it stands, the second-place Union sit three points ahead of NYCFC in the Eastern Conference. With Philly having taken two wins from two home games, allowing just a single goal, the Bronx Blues have their work cut out for them.

Who is this Philly team, anyway? What happened to the listless club that has made the playoffs just once in its history?

Well, the utterly disastrous Nick Sakiewicz Industrial Complex has given way, in a matter of months, to an Earnie Stewart regime that appears to have all the right moves: Chris "Party Boy" Pontius looks like a smart pickup from DC United, and Georgetown rookie Keegan Rosenberry is In Like Flint at right fullback.

But above all, this Union side stands on the shoulders of Andre Blake. The Jamaican netminder has brought Philly some much-needed credibility between the sticks, putting a merciful halt to the outrageous, grotesque goalkeeping carousel that plagued Jim Curtin's team in the recent past. They've conceded just seven goals in six total games, the third-best mark in the Eastern Conference. Last week in Columbus, New York City managed just its first multi-goal game in over a month. They'll need to keep it going today.

If goals are going to come, the hope is that Patrick Vieira has addressed the limitations of the 4-3-3 formation that has surrendered six goals in two road games this year. Width problems, a lack of creativity, and the inability to facilitate Andrea Pirlo all served to tear down the Blues in Columbus last weekend. We've suggested a couple of formational remedies for Vieira, all of which involved Federico Bravo returning to the base of the midfield: the "box to box center back" and Boca Juniors loanee could bring some much-needed roughnecking to a 4-2-2-2. Have a look:

Let's face facts: New York City's best wide players are both fullbacks: Ronald Matarrita and Andoni Iraola. Both of these guys (1) make better decisions on the ball, (2) are better passers, and (3) are better crossers than Khiry Shelton, Stiven Mendoza, and Tony Taylor. Even RJ Allen, who recently made his return to the team sheet, has a more consistent NYCFC track record in the wide areas than those three. So why force the issue with a 4-3-3? Vieira needs to figure a solution but quick, because the Union aren't messing around; CJ Sapong can hurt you on the ground or in the air, and Tranquillo Barnetta can do this:

Whether a return to form requires a 4-4-2 template, a 5-3-2 with wingbacks, or perhaps the patented 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1, something's gotta change for New York City. If they can manage a fast start and a lucky bounce or two -- or a T-Mac golazo, that'd be nice -- it'll be blue skies again in the Five Boroughs.



OUT: Maurice Edu (left tibia stress fracture)

QUESTIONABLE: Ilsinho (left hamstring strain), Ken Tribbett (right ankle sprain)

New York City:

OUT: Connor Brandt (core muscle repair)

QUESTIONABLE: Jack Harrison (pelvis injury), Frank Lampard (gastrocnemius inflammation), Ethan White (hamstring strain)



Phiadelphia 2, New York City 2. Villa 8', Le Toux 50', Mullins 74', Marquez 76'. Blues take the lead twice but can't hold it, settling for a point. Bravo returns to the XI and RJ Allen makes his debut off the bench. Jason Hernandez posts a top performance, with one or two highlight-quality tackles in the box. Andre Blake denies two chances that should have been winning goals, one on a Patrick Mullins header and another on a left-footer from a half-fallen-over Kwadwo Poku. Game of Thrones premieres and Melisandre resurrects Prince using fire magic.