New York City tries to get back on the winning track north of the border this afternoon when it takes on Eastern Conference foes the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo at 5 p.m.
The Impact come into this afternoon’s nationally televised game on a six-game unbeaten streak, while New York City had their four-game streak snapped by a comprehensive Sporting KC performance last Sunday. The Blues hope that a seven-day layoff will be just the tonic the team needs to remain at the top of the East.
The meeting also features a reunion between two legends of the sport. Montréal’s Didier Drogba and the Blues’ Frank Lampard starred together for Chelsea of the English Premier League, crowning their time together with a European Cup triumph in 2012.
This will be the first time the two meet in MLS, however. Drogba was instrumental in keying the Impact’s run to the postseason last year, whilst Lampard has been on fire lately, scoring four times in the last five matches.
The game comes squarely as New York City are in the midst fine-tuning their squad in pursuit of a first-ever playoff spot. They signed centre back Maxime Chanot from KV Kortrijk in Belgium on Saturday to bolster their defense, which hasn’t been the steadiest. Manager Patrick Vieira admitted that he’d be willing to move midfielder Mix Diskerud, and reiterated that starting keeper Josh Saunders remained his first-choice keeper, despite arguably giving up two goals in Sunday’s loss.
Moreover, the injury bug is starting to creep up on the Blues. Both left back Ronald Matarrita and winger Khiry Shelton are questionable for today’s match with minor muscle injuries, though Vieira made it clear in post-practice comments this week that both players could play if needed this afternoon.
With a week’s rest, this game sets up nicely for New York City. Whilst Montréal have been stout at home, their defense for today’s game lacks two critical pieces. All-Star defender Laurent Ciman - arguably the best defender in MLS - and Danny Toia are both out injured. The Blues’ front three of McNamara, Villa, and Harrison will need to take advantage of a depleted and inexperienced Impact back line if New York City wants to take all three points.
On the flip side, Didier Drogba will be a stern test for the Blues’ backline. New signing Chanot cannot play because New York City doesn’t have an available international slot. That means we’ll likely be seeing the same backline we’ve been seeing for the past few weeks. But even though they’ll be keying on Drogba, the Blues need to make sure they don’t lose track of Johan Venegas, Michael Salazar, Lucas Ontiveros, or even Patrick Bernier, all of whom can contribute on offense.
The Impact suffered another loss midweek when midfielder Ignacio Piatti was suspended for a harsh tackle against Portland’s Alvas Powell. Piatti’s Montréal’s metronome; he’s their link between offense and defense. Without him, New York City will likely dominate the midfield, and be able to dictate the pace of the match much more to their liking.
This afternoon’s match will be televised on ESPN. You can stream it on WatchESPN. If you want to listen on the radio, it’ll be broadcast on WFAN on English, and WADO on Spanish. You can click here to listen to the radio broadcasts. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.