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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Can the Blues end their seven-match winless skid Saturday against David Ousted and the BC Boys?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

We should have seen it coming. It came just two days after NYCFC's January 31st preseason debut down in Florida.

Groundhog Day.

The struggles all make sense now. We're living the same season all over again.

Sure, the 2016 edition of New York City FC prefers a flighty 4-3-3 and the zany 3-2-2-3, both stark contrasts to Jason Kreis's penchant for the fruitless, #basic 4-2-3-1 that plagued the inaugural season. But through seven matches, this year's results bear a spine-tingling resemblance to the toils of 2015.

Look over there, on the sideline-- that's not Patrick Vieira barking out commands. It's Punxsutawney Pat.

Because we've seen this struggle before, as our own Calvin Daniel wrote this week. You know the kind: toothless, disjointed, and downright perplexing. Bungled chances ordered in bulk. Draws that feel like losses. Possession as a bridge to nowhere.

And here we are! Last year's eleven-match winless slide has given way to this year's ongoing seven-game skid. Each of these dubious spates bled through the fibers of a reasonably strong start (five points in three games to open both seasons). But with the Vancouver Whitecaps coming to the Bronx just three days after Montreal stole a point there, it's time to obliterate the past in order to forge a future worth buying tickets for.

If that doesn't happen, your favorite team's playoff dreams will come that much closer to turning to ashes in your mouth. For real.

Lucky for the Boys in Blue, Vancouver isn't exactly smokin' aces at the moment: defender Kendall Waston, who in 2015 made the MLS Team of the Year and was selected as the Caps' Player of the Year, is unavailable after a sending-off early in the second half Wednesday agains Sporting KC. And how about this-- of Vancouver's ten goals scored this season, only a single one has come from open play!

Yes, life is strange. The BC Boys have scored four penalty goals, four on set pieces, and benefited from one own goal. That doesn't sound very scary, does it? Combine that with a cross-continental trip on short rest, and New York City, which defeated the Caps 2-1 in their first-ever meeting last season, has a bit more than just a puncher's chance.

So, can the Bronx Blues figure out a way to score goals without expecting the sun and the moon and the stars from David Villa by his lonesome?

"I think we played good, we deserved it more," Villa said after Wednesday's plainly deflating 1-1 draw against the Impact. "We create more than the other team in a lot of games. We give a lot of presents for the other team always."

Giving is nice. Altruism is a sign of the kind of higher brain function that distinguishes us from wild beasts, or Nat Borchers. But if you want the throne, you've got to take it.

It's time for NYCFC to start taking. Unfortunately, even without Waston, these Caps aren't giving anything away for free, as Great Dane David Ousted continues to dazzle between the sticks. The keeper leads the league in saves with 36, and has already put together a serious highlight reel to rival his splendid campaigns in 2014 and '15. He's made three MLS Teams of the Week through eight games.

It will take guile to best Ousted and pillage all three points. Can someone, anyone inject some creativity in the advanced midfield behind David Villa? If that doesn't happen, the Blues might find themselves stuck in a time loop.

I'm looking at you, Tommy McNamara. And you, Mix Diskerud. Time to buck up and end this Groundhog Daze once and for all.

INJURED & ABSENT

New York City:

OUT: RJ Allen (right ankle inflammation)

QUESTIONABLE: Connor Brandt (core muscle repair), Jack Harrison (pelvis injury), Frank Lampard (gastrocnemius inflammation)

Vancouver:

OUT: Christian Dean (left foot fracture), Deybi Flores (right adductor strain)

SUSPENDED: Kendall Waston (sent off)

PUNXSUTAWNEY PAT, IN HIS OWN WORDS

EDITORS' PREDICTION

New York City 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 1. Groundhog Day, folks. Mix Diskerud taps one in off a rebound to take the lead, but Octavio Rivero equalizes and each team leaves with a point. The winless streak continues.