- Follow the leader: David Villa is the heart, soul, brain, pancreas, spleen, and left big toenail of New York City FC. Set to make his first start in four weeks, the team will go as far as he takes them— he’s scored three goals in two career games against Houston.
- Pirlo Party Redux? We’ve seen what happens when ol’ Andrea gets a runout against a team that can actually score, most recently at home against Portland, when the aging wizard brought dishonor upon our house with a stupefying giveaway. With Mikey Lopez back to health and Alex Ring angling for his own return — plus, ya know, !!!JAMES SANDS!!! — would Patrick Vieira dare roll the dice with the Maestro again?
- This is fine: New York City still utterly control their own fate. They still have the second-best record in MLS, trailing only a historically great Toronto side. But with Chicago back on their horse and the expansion team down south currently killing for fun, the Boys in Blue have precious little margin for error. If they lose this one despite Villa’s presence — or blow a late lead like they did last weekend in Commerce City — it might start feeling like panic time in the Five Boroughs.
- Starving the beast: The Dynamo only possess the ball 46.3% of the time. They’re slumping as it is, having taking just one point from their last four contests; keeping them off the ball like mad will prevent the attacking trio of Cubo Torres, Mauro Manotas, and Alberth Elis from getting into a rhythm.
- Finagle-a-fullback: When Ronald Matarrita went down with his second ugly injury of the season nearly three months ago against Minnesota, he was manning his usual left fullback position, with the typically left-sided Ben Sweat covering on the right. With Mata and Ethan White both set to be available for selection, figuring out who lines up where may be the most intriguing subplot of the weekend. Will Vieira opt to play Matarrita up high in place of fellow Tico Rodney Wallace, even if only as a late-game substitute? Will RJ Allen find himself the odd man out on the back line once again, just as he did in the early part of the season? Getcha popcorn ready.
NYCFC vs. Houston Dynamo: 5 things we’re watching for
Will the Boys in Blue show some heart in Hartford?