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Three Things to Watch for: New York City FC vs. Minnesota United

Get ready for something different between the sticks.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks the only time in 2017 that Western Conference expansion boys Minnesota United will cross paths with NYCFC. While Adrian Heath’s team has the worst goal differential in MLS, they’ve allowed more than two goals in a game just twice since the end of March. Given Minnesota’s attacking potential, we’ve entertained the idea that, for various reasons, this is the classic trap game for New York City.

Although, you know, we could be, like, wrong.

Three Things to Watch for Tonight

  1. SEAN GONE: First-choice goalkeeper Sean Johnson has proven a splendid signing for Patrick Vieira’s team, conceding a tidy 1.18 goals per game through 17 starts. Most importantly, he’s been better than advertised as the first link in the build-from-the-back chain, developing a strong rapport with center back tandem Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens. For the next two games, however, Johnson will be away at Gold Cup camp with the US National Team. So, enter Eirik Johansen, who has made five starts in competitive matches for New York City— and has been on the losing end of four, including last fall’s back-to-back embarrassments against Toronto in the playoffs. While Johansen can play with the ball at his feet and has all the size you could ever want — at 6’7”, he’s tied for the tallest in MLS — he can’t match Johnson for experience, and certainly not for confidence. Will Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino seek to abuse the Norwegian netminder early and often to see what he’s made of?
  2. LEFT LEANINGS: Ronald Matarrita is fully recovered from the high ankle sprain that kept him out for the better part of two months. But would you believe that Ben Sweat has created a playing time conundrum for Patrick Vieira at left fullback? Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find an overlapper in MLS with more athleticism or a higher ceiling than Mata, but it’s hard to argue against Sweat’s scintillating form: an assist and a goal at Red Bull Arena against NYCFC’s hated rivals will do that. For a lot of reasons — namely, that European powers will want to see him top-shop before they swoop in for a handsome bid — Mata is in pole position to get boatloads of playing time now that he’s fit; you’ll never regret starting the guy in this league because he really is that good. But the mere fact that this is a conversation to be had... that’s one of those good problems.
  3. CASTLE BRONX: Since falling to Orlando City at home back on April 23rd, NYCFC have found a smashing run of form at Yankee Stadium, going undefeated in four and taking ten of a possible 12 points. What’s more? They’ve refused to roll over even when they’ve given up the lead or trailed late. Remember the frantic fightback against Philadelphia on June 3rd? The wet-and-wild Seattle affair a week and a half ago? The Blues have proven that, much like Blade or the Highlander, you can’t kill them unless you cut off their heads. And this is a team with its dome screwed on straight. Oh, and by the way— Minnesota are still looking for their first-ever away win, having taken a measly two points out of a possible 24 away from the Twin Cities.