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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

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First-place Philly rides into Yankee Stadium on Saturday to try and kick the Blues while they're down. Can Vieira's boys strike back hard?

Best frands!
Best frands!
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Who wants to win a home game?

I'll wait.

...

Sure, hey, every professional athlete with a pulse wants to win. I get that. But after watching New York City FC give up leads at home, capitulate on crunch-time set pieces, and throw up all over themselves in the U.S. Open Cup, it's clear that not everyone in the Etihad shirt knows what it takes to really seal the deal.

"I gave some players a chance to perform, to show me they deserve to play more," Vieira said after Wednesday's Cup debacle against the humble New York Cosmos, "and they didn’t show it today. That’s why I’m quite really frustrated because the trust I had in them, I didn’t get it back. It’s difficult for me to accept."

In other words, *I overestimated the capabilities of my own players.*

Yikes. As the embattled gaffer continued:

"As a manager, I’m the one who made the selection and I am the first one to put my hand in the air and say I made a mistake when I made the decision to rest so many players. I’m the first responsible for the performance of the players. If you don’t show [humility], you have to be Monsieur Ronaldo, to have the quality to do it. When you don’t have that quality to do it, you have to keep the game simple, be humble and work hard for the team. When we don’t do it, we don’t have any chance to win games."

Well. That's what happens when you let Icarus fly too close to the sun, eh?

This is all of a piece that says "never again": perhaps Saturday's Philly showdown wasn't an absolute must-win from the perspective of, say, a week ago. After all, NYCFC still sits above the red line at fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They've got just about everything to play for. But after Wednesday's atrocious, stinking failure at stately Fordham University, Vieira and the Blues absolutely must beat the Union. After resting just about everybody worth a damn on the squad, there's no longer any semblance of a ready-made excuse for a lackluster effort Saturday.

And with a well-rested David Villa in the mix, anything is possible. Hey, maybe Frank Lampard will be able to leg out ten or fifteen heady minutes, too! Suffice to say that we're going to see Vieira's A-Squad. Honestly, that should be enough.

For the sake of the fans, it needs to be enough.

With Jamaica eliminated in the group stage of the ongoing Copa America Centenario, redoubtable Union goalkeeper Andre Blake will be back in the fold. He's a threat-- when these teams last met earlier this year at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Blake stonewalled the Blues and the home team won, 2-0. Really, the defending has been the difference for this surprising 2016 edition of the Union. Rookie Keegan Rosenberry has been a serious force on the right side of a back line that has allowed just 16 goals in 14 league games. (New York City has conceded 19 league goals at home this year. Thanks, Red Bulls.)

Andrea Pirlo, Tommy McNamara, RJ Allen, and (presumably) Jack Harrison will look to provide the creative spark for NYCFC after sitting out Wednesday, and you can bet that we won't see a lick of the problematic Ethan White, the baffling Jefferson Mena, or the anonymous Shannon Gomez among the back four. No, Saturday is a new day.

It ought to be, anyway. Because if the Blues end up producing more of the same, it could be a cruel summer in the Five Boroughs.

INJURED & ABSENT

New York City:

OUT: Federico Bravo (calf strain)

Philadelphia:

OUT: Maurice Edu (left tibia stress fracture)

QUESTIONABLE: CJ Sapong (ankle), Josh Yaro (right shoulder)

PROJECTED STARTING XIs

New York City:

Philadelphia:

EDITORS' PREDICTION:

NYCFC 2, Philly 1. The Blues, with their biggest-ever chip-on-the-shoulder, finally snatch home win #2.