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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. FC Dallas

Fresh off a U.S. Open Cup title, the league-leading Cowpokes ride into the South Bronx, where the Blues have won five straight.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s good that New York City FC isn’t sitting at the top of the East like they had for so much of the summer.

I’m telling you today that it’s a good thing.

Because if Saturday’s Yankee Stadium showdown between FC Dallas and the hometown Blues was a battle of two teams in first place in their respective conferences, the hype train would be practically flying off the rails. MLSSoccer.com would lose its mind. The match would be front-and-center on national TV instead of tucked comfortably into the YES Network slate.

And that would be bad. Too much noise. Too many distractions for a team that’s never played postseason ball before.

Instead, the Boys in Blue are in third in the East, tied on points with the Red Bulls, but lagging miles behind on goal difference. But take heart: Patrick Vieira’s team still has every chance to finish the year at the top of the heap, punching its ticket straight away for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League. They’ve won five straight on the trot in front of the home fans. Frankie Lamps keeps scoring (even with his feet, sometimes!!!).

And don’t forget how strong NYCFC has been this year against some of the best of the West.

A 5-1 stunner over Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids. A clean sheet against the high-flying LA Galaxy. This is all of a piece: New York City has zero reason to fear Oscar Pareja’s FC Dallas side, fearsome playmaker Mauro Diaz and the center back pairing of Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges notwithstanding.

Zero reason.

CUPS AND SAUCERS

FC Dallas is playing on short rest this weekend, having bested the New England Revolution Tuesday night to win the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Considering that they also sit in pole position for the MLS Supporters Shield, Pareja & Co. have got to be entertaining the possibility of a domestic treble.

If that means that there’s even the slightest chance that FC Dallas could be looking a bit beyond this weekend’s tilt with NYCFC, it’s a huge advantage for the home team. Vieira’s squad needs to strike fast. They need to score first. I’m talking shock-and-awe here.

POTENT QUOTABLES
  • Oscar Pareja on managing his squad across multiple competitions:

“It has been tough to face all three competitions, and not just three competitions, but four competitions as we have five players in international duty. They are playing the Open Cup. They are playing CONCACAF [Champions League]. They play in the league. They play national team qualifications. We need to be smart with them. There’s not too much you can do when you have to face so many competitions.”

  • NYCFC fullback RJ Allen on his team’s lackluster showing in last weekend’s 3-1 loss at New England:

“We just weren’t good enough to get what we wanted out of the match. Overall we just need to be better. I think we need to learn from this … We have two home games coming up, two of the most important games of the year, and six points is a must.”

EDITORS’ PREDICTION

New York City FC 1, FC Dallas 1. A hard-fought stalemate. Tommy McNamara bombs one from deep to equalize for the home team after Michael Barrios strikes first. The Blues’ home winning streak snaps, but a point ends up feeling pretty OK against such a formidable foe.