The histories of New York City FC and Orlando City often run parallel to one another. They were both expansion franchises in the same season, signed an A-list European talent (David Villa and Kaka respectively) as a Designated Player, and both struggled in their initial campaigns.
Fast forward two years, and fortunes have turned for NYCFC, while Orlando remain without a postseason appearance. After a poor first season that left him as persona non grata in New York, Jason Kreis is helming the Lions’ ship this season. After turning over the roster in the offseason, the former Real Salt Lake legend is facing a make-or-break campaign.
While Kaka, Cyle Larin, and Carlos Rivas have either retired or are plying their trade elsewhere, Orlando still have plenty of attacking quality. Here is how Patrick Vieira and company can win their third straight game.
- Line Up Like This
4-3-3: Johnson; Sweat, Chanot, Callens, Tinnerholm; Herrera, Ring, Moralez; Matarrita, Medina; Villa
Bench: Stuver, Ibeagha, Abdul-Salaam, Ofori, Tajouri-Shradi, Wallace, Berget
The Rodney Wallace experiment has to end at some point. Vieira can’t claim to run a true meritocracy if Wallace is in the XI every game. Vieira experimented with Ronald Matarrita as a more advanced forward, and it’s worth finding out if he could be a viable replacement. Jo Inge Berget makes his debut on the bench after missing 3 weeks with a quad injury.
The midfield — seemingly the most stable part of NYCFC’s lineup — remains unchanged. Maxi Moralez is the attacking midfielder once again, with Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera playing box-to-box. On the bench again is Ebenezer Ofori, who was solid in his first NYCFC appearance last week.
The back four stays the same as it was in their first match. Right back Anton Tinnerholm has really impressed in his two games with NYCFC, finding the back of the net in last week’s match. Maxime Chanot replaces Sebastian Ibeagha, as his mandatory red card suspension has elapsed. It will be interesting to see how Cedric Hountondji will be used, as he is clearly the 4th choice center back behind Ibeagha.
2. Use pace and width to attack Orlando’s diamond formation
With Orlando, Kreis had has the most success with a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation. Orlando wants to control the middle of the field and dictate the pace from there. With Orlando’s current squad, there is a noticeable lack of pace.
While NYCFC don’t have the Toronto-esque pace to turn the match into a track meet, Matarrita and Jesus Medina would give New York two players quicker than any whom will be lining up in purple.
Vieira has shown a tendency to adapt his attacking philosophy to personnel. He utilized the middle of the pitch more against a depleted LA Galaxy, and should use width and pace to attack Orlando. Medina and Moralez — the latter has experience playing wide this season when Medina is subbed off — need to be given total freedom to orchestrate from a wide position.
3. Kjlestan and Meram will attack from the middle. Shut them down.
Orlando’s attackers have been a pretty large thorn in NYCFC’s side over the last few years. Kaka would turn back the clock to his Milan days, while the Cyle Larin-Carlos Rivas partnership didn’t look dissimilar to Messi and Suarez at times. Despite Kaka, Larin, and Rivas having all departed the City Beautiful, Orlando have poached two of the biggest NYCFC killers from elsewhere in MLS in an attempt to replace them.
Justin Meram — an Iraqi international who used to star with Columbus — is now being utilized as a striker under Kreis. Former MLS assist leader and New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kjlestan will likely be at the tip of Kreis’ diamond formation after missing the first few games.
With his previous club, Kjlestan played more of a wide role that allowed him to whip balls into the box. Likewise, Meram was a winger that liked to cut inside and use his dribbling ability to create chances. In Orlando, Meram has deployed more as a conventional striker.
While their roles may be unfamiliar to them, their quality is still apparent. It’s imperative NYCFC lock down the middle of the field. Herrera, who has had a roller-coaster campaign so far, needs to be on his A game, as those two stars will be running right at him all game.
4. Orlando’s discipline is spotty. Look to exploit that
Kreis’ men have a tendency to get a little too aggressive from time to time. Orlando was tied for first in MLS with 8 red cards in 2017 to go with 60 yellow cards. In their first match, the squad still couldn’t shake their disciplinary demons, as Victor “PC” Giro was escorted off in the first half, leading to a draw.
There is a difference between being an aggressive defense that excels at intercepting passes and tackles physically to start a counter attack, and an overly violent defense prone to cards. Orlando has yet to find that balance. Their bad habit of recklessly diving into tackles could vey well give NYCFC a man-up advantage at some point during the match.
Being overly cautious will get NYCFC nowhere in this tilt. They need to keep the pressure on and test these overly excitable Orlando players. One errant tackle and NYCFC might lock up three points at home.
What do you think NYCFC needs to do? Lets us know in the comments!