Tonight's clash between the Montréal Impact and New York City pits two teams moving in different directions. The Blues are mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference; the Impact top the conference, in second place only through goal differential. New York City is still without a home victory this season; their only win came on Opening Day, in a wild 4-3 win against the Chicago Fire.
The Blues are mired in a six-game winless streak, and have lost their last two games. Needless to say, this is not how New York City fans envisioned this season getting started, and frustration is setting in among fans. Last season, an 11-game winless streak at this exact same time effectively squashed the Blues' hopes of making the playoffs; this streak threatens to do the same.
One thing to keep in mind: New York City has a winning record against the Impact. They met three times in the Blues' inaugural season, with New York City winning twice, including on the road at Stade Saputo. NYC was the only team to win at home, winning 3-1 on June 13.
Can they keep it up? That's less clear. New York City have only scored three times in the last 360 minutes. Only two of those goals came in the run of play; one by Tommy McNamara, the other by David Villa. That gets to the biggest problem with this Blues' team -- they're getting a lot of chances, but they're not converting them.
New York City's offense - despite the roster overhaul, despite signing someone like Stiven Mendoza on loan, and giving players like Patrick Mullins, Tony Taylor, and Khiry Shelton plenty of opportunities - is still utterly dependent on David Villa. Take him away, and the Blues lack any scoring threat.
That needs to change. Villa may be a transcendent talent; he is, after all, the all-time leading scorer for the Spanish national team. He's also 33 years old, and on the wrong side of the age curve for a striker. What happens if he goes missing from the roster for an extended period?
Here's hoping we don't find out.
"We deserved to take something back," Patrick Vieira said after losing to Philadelphia on Saturday. "We made some mistakes that we shouldn't make at this level. But, on the other side, because we create more than we concede – much, much more – I feel that we deserve to take something back. When you analyze the game you can see that we controlled the game and I think we were by far the better team today. I believe that we dominated the game and created enough chances to score the goals."
Here's the thing: it's not enough to "dominate" the game and create chances. At some point, you have to convert those chances.
Now, more than ever, would be an excellent time for players like Mullins and Shelton to step up. Now would be a fantastic time for Mendoza to prove he's something more than a speedster. In short: laissez les bon-temps roulez. It's time for the offense to get in gear, and let the good times roll at Yankee Stadium at last.
If not, if New York City lose a third straight match, and this winless streak climbs to an unlucky number seven, then the French phrase in mind won't be that joyous one. It'll be: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. More of the same is precisely what New York City fans don't want.
New York City FC
Connor Brandt - OUT
Jack Harrison - QUESTIONABLE
Frank Lampard - QUESTIONABLE
Ethan White - QUESTIONABLE
Cameron Porter - OUT
Andres Romero - OUT
We're back at home, so don't be surprised if Vieira returns to his retro-cool 3-2-2-3 formation (AKA, the "W-M") here. Andrea Pirlo didn't feature in Saturday's loss to the Union; I'd be surprised if his absence continued. But who knows? I think, just like Kreis last season, we're getting to the point where Vieira is simply going to try anything in hopes that it jumpstarts the team and gets it going again.
One thing that might happen, though, is goalkeeper Eirik Johansen getting a start over the stalwart Josh Saunders. As good a shot-stopper as Saunders is, he's atrocious at ball distribution. It's clear that Vieira wants that to be a thing. With a short turnaround - New York City plays Vancouver on Saturday - we might see Johansen getting the start.
Some notes. I've got RJ Allen getting the start ahead of Andoni Iraola here. Allen, dating back to last season, has performed better on offense and defense than Iraola. More importantly, with a short turnaround, it makes sense to start different players in order to spread the load.
For that same reason, I've got Kwadwo Poku starting over Tommy McNamara, who's looked a bit peaked lately. I have Khiry Shelton on the left wing, and Stiven Mendoza on the right. Yes, Mendoza hasn't impressed much, but it's either him or Tony Taylor, and Mendoza gives you speed.