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PREVIEW: New York City at Philadelphia, 7 PM

The Blues travel down I-95 to take on the Union in a prime-time ESPN matchup.

New York City FC v Orlando City SC Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

We’re seven games into 2017, so we’re finally starting to get an idea of who’s good and who isn’t. It’s clear that this New York City squad is good. What isn’t is how good, and whether they can achieve that with the roster they currently have, or whether technical director Claudio Reyna and manager Patrick Vieira will have to do more pruning.

You know where we stand. We think this squad is a better squad without il Maestro, Andrea Pirlo. We suspect Vieira feels the same way, but he’s too cagey and classy of a guy to really give the game away. And so the game goes on.

Specifically, it rolls down Interstate 95 to Chester, PA, where NYCFC will take on the Philadelphia Union. The Union are pretty clearly bad, so NYCFC should beat them. They’re in last place in the East. But that’s not really indicative of anything; at this time last year, the Union were in second place, and they made the playoffs last year.

What I’m saying is this Union team is not an abysmally bad team. There’s quality there — not that current Union manager Jim Curtin’s been able to marshal it. The Union have won just one of their last nine home games (1-5-3), allowing multiple goals in seven of those nine contests. That’s a scary stat when you’re facing an offense like New York City’s.


Then again: this is dearly beloved NYCFC we’re talkin’ about here. Our Blue Men Group have lost six of their last nine regular season away matches, and are quietly on a three-game losing streak when you toss in last Saturday’s defeat at Raccoon Forest Kamp. Those losses have come by an average of 2-0, and in CJ Sapong, Philadelphia have one of four players with three-plus goals and at least 75 percent shooting accuracy this year.

So there’s reason for concern. But I suspect that said reasons will be taken into consideration by Vieira, and weighed appropriately. Whatever plot Curtin had, he’s seemingly lost it thoroughly this year.

This isn’t a bumbling, stumbling NYCFC. This is a potent team going through its growing pains.

The series is even right now, at two wins and two draws apiece. It won’t be after tomorrow night. I think New York City wins, 3-1.

Predicted lineup:

You’ll notice a couple of changes. First, I’ve made official what happens on the field. It might line up as a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, but it’s really three at the back. I think he goes with a back line of Matarrita, Chanot, and Brillant, but don’t be surprised if the back line is instead:

Callens — Brillant — White.

Callens has impressed on defense in ways Matarrita hasn’t, while White’s been solid. I think Miguel Camargo goes into the middle there, not so much as a defensive midfielder so much as an extra defender in the middle to shield Pirlo. Moralez, who isn’t named in the lineup above (El Fantasma!) is your 10.

You can watch the game on The Worldwide Leader starting at 7 PM.