New York City FC’s decisive victories over the Philadelphia Union this past week can largely be attributed to City having their best possible lineup available for the first time since May when Yangel Herrera went down with a serious ankle injury that required surgery. Initially thought to be out for the season, the Venezuelan midfielder on loan from Manchester City made a remarkable recovery and became match fit right on time for the Blues’ MLS Cup Playoffs push.
Despite being at full strength ahead of the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Atlanta United tomorrow night, NYCFC faces a new challenge: making their players behave.
Should either of them receive a yellow card tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium, Maxime Chanot and/or Ben Sweat will have to miss out on the second leg in Atlanta.
So, how do you go about dealing with such an issue? Obviously, the easiest solution would be for Chanot and Sweat to keep their cool and not commit a plethora of fouls. However, this is playoff soccer; that’s a tough ask.
Here’s what I would do: start Chanot, bench Sweat.
For the record, I love Ben Sweat! I was so stoked when he earned his well-deserved, first-ever callup to the USMNT last month. But the former South Florida Bull has hit a rough patch of form recently. Therefore, this is a perfect opportunity to execute one of the game plans we talked about yesterday and slide Ronald Matarrita down to left back while inserting Jesus Medina into the left wing position.
As for Chanot, I’d leave him in. He and Alexander Callens are still one of the best defensive duos in the league. While Sebastien Ibeagha has proven to be a viable backup, I would not start him in the first leg where a good pace must be set. Ibeagha is best utilized in a damage limitation capacity as opposed to being a perennial starter.
Should NYCFC find themselves in a situation where they are in firm control and have a lead of at least two or three goals, maybe you can have Maxime intentionally snag a card late to get his suspension out of the way and save him for the Eastern Conference Finals against either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew.
But we’re thinking way too far ahead with that. Either way, you best mind your P’s and Q’s, you Boys in Blue!