- The Gold Cup giveth and it taketh away. Sean Johnson is finally, mercifully back in the fold for New York City FC after a vapid turn with the United States in the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. An utterly unused third goalkeeper with the Stars & Stripes, he’s returned to the Five Boroughs to spell Eirik Johansen, who presided over a win and a loss in the interim— but NYCFC conceded first in both contests, and blew a lead in the latter. Toronto, however, is much worse for the Gold Cup wear: Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are among Bruce Arena’s knockout stage USA call-ups, joining fellow international truants Armando Cooper (Canada), Justin Morrow (United States), and Jonathan Osorio (Canada). Add to that the fact that first-choice defender Steven Beitashour is on the mend from pancreas surgery and it would appear that this is NYCFC’s game for the taking. Right?
- The midfield mojo: Yangel Herrera, whose premature injury exit from July 5th’s match at Vancouver contributed to what would be a maddening loss, is all the way back and ready to go. It’s overwhelmingly clear that New York City’s best midfield three features Herrera showing off his formidable skill set between Alex Ring and Maxi Moralez, but it’s bizarre just how briefly this trio has been able to play alongside one another this year: a 3-2 win at Columbus on April 29th and a 3-1 home decision over Atlanta on May 7th. We have the U20 World Cup and a sprinkling of injuries to thank for the partnership’s brevity to this point, but no matter— this triumvirate can raise exactly the kind of hell Patrick Vieira’s philosophy requires if given even half a chance. We’re willing to wager that you’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile three-man midfield in MLS.
- The must-win blues: OK, yes. This version of Toronto that Greg Vanney will be forced to trot out Wednesday is, as Silky Johnson said, bombed out and depleted. But do you think Sebastian Giovinco gives a damn? He scores against New York City for fun. For this reason alone, a win is anything but a given for the Blues, even given their sterling record at Yankee Stadium this year. One might even be tempted to designate this contest a “must-win” given the squad selection woes Toronto has to grapple with, but I’m here to say the exact opposite: this is a should-win game, sure. But a must-win? What on earth does it prove if New York City beats up on a diluted opponent? It certainly wouldn’t tell us anything about whether or not this team can win the Cup. Let’s just be content that they look like contenders. Because they are.
Three things to watch for: NYCFC vs. Toronto FC
No matter who scores the goals, Bruce Arena gets an assist.