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Three things to watch for: NYCFC vs. New England Revolution

The big narratives we’re following ahead of Sunday’s clash in the South Bronx

MLS: New England Revolution at New York City FC Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC returns home in second place in both Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference and the race for the Supporters’ Shield. But this weekend’s opponent, despite their decidedly poor record, cannot be dismissed out of hand.

So, what do NYCFC fans need to know about this second of three meetings with New England in 2017? Let’s identify our three top stories.

Revolution, Nein

MLS: New England Revolution at New York City FC Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The team from Foxborough was the first ever to fall at the feet of New York City FC back in Year One. It was a massive day at Yankee Stadium that you wouldn’t forget if you tried. Since that day, unfortunately, the Bronx Blues’ record against the New England Revolution has been stunningly mediocre.

In fact, since that famous home opener in 2015, NYCFC have managed to defeat the Revs just once in six meetings. New England has won three of those. Most recently, back on May 31st, the good guys blew the lead at home after making a way-too-early defensive sub. Xavier Kouassi’s late strike would leave things all square at 2-2 when the final whistle blew.

Even with the Revs winning three of their last four overall entering the weekend, finagling a home win against a middling side shouldn’t be as difficult as it has been. It just shouldn’t. With a trip to Red Bull Arena coming up the following Friday, the hosts would do well to leave no doubt as to who’s rocking some serious momentum in the East.

Still Can’t Have Nice Things

MLS: New York City FC at Los Angeles Galaxy
See you soon?
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Another note about that first 2017 meeting: Alexander Ring missed out due to a yellow card suspension. This weekend? The Ringmaster is out yet again, having earned his eighth amarilla of the year Saturday night in SoCal.

(Just for kicks, Ethan White picked up a ban of his own thanks to card accumulation.)

When it comes to New York City’s midfield, the soccer gods are downright angry and unkind. While the team is undefeated in five games in which Ring, Yangel Herrera, and Maxi Moralez have all started together, that’s still only five games. Sunday marks the second straight match in which one of the trio is suspended. And right on schedule, only weeks removed from a sending-off that caused him to miss July 30th’s 4-0 thrashing at Toronto, Herrera is just one yellow away from a one-game ban of his own.

Depth has been an issue for the Blues ever since Ronald Matarrita, Rodney Wallace, and Miguel Camargo all went down injured in rapid succession. Though the ongoing breakout of Jonathan Lewis and the recent returns of Wallace and out-for-months Khiry Shelton will all help matters significantly, there’s no like-for-like replacement in the engine room. And against a team that gives New York City uncharacteristic fits, that’s bad news.

Fully Loaded

Euro 2016 - Hungary Press Conference Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images

It’s not as if New England was hurting for attacking talent, especially on either edge of a front three, but Krisztian Nemeth is back in MLS all the same. The former Sporting KC forward and Hungary international arrived in Foxborough this week after a transfer from Qatari side Al Gharafa was announced last Thursday.

With Juan Agudelo, Kei Kamara, and Lee Nguyen all with eight goals on the year, Diego Fagundez ever-dangerous, and Teal Bunbury with four tallies in his last four games, it’s not exactly clear where Nemeth fits into the picture for Jay Heaps’ team. But given the serious headache the Revs tend to represent for NYCFC, adding one more talent to the mix doesn’t inspire surplus confidence here in the Five Boroughs. It may be smarter to play the lottery than to hope for a second straight clean sheet for Sean Johnson on Sunday. If New York City wants to win, they may have to score three. Or more.

The good news is that they can.