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How NYCFC should line up against New England

With no David Villa, Rodney Wallace or Alex Ring, the Boys in Blue will have to get creative to grab points in Foxboro.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, we discussed how New York City FC should go about replacing Alex Ring — one of City’s most important players — for this Saturday’s game against the New England Revolution. Since then, the matter has become a bit more nuanced. It’s no longer about just replacing the Finnish defensive midfielder. According to reports, you must now — for the second straight week — replace David Villa at the no. 9 position due to his lingering injury, as well as left winger Rodney Wallace who has been called up to represent Costa Rica against Scotland and Tunisia on March 23 and March 27 respectively.

Obviously, the Blues fared well without Villa this past weekend against Orlando City, winning in a definitive 2-0 contest. However, Villa is still City’s most prolific goal scorer in their short history. One win without El Guaje doesn’t definitively answer whether or not the team can continue to make due in his abscence, especially when the only litmus test is a match against a struggling Orlando team that was heavily depleted at the front (primary striker Dom Dwyer was out due to injury) and only had one point through their first two games, both of which were at home.

As far as Wallace is concerned, it’s fair to say that many fans have been dissatisfied with his performances since last spring: the Costa Rican winger has failed to score a goal since May 22. But if we’re being honest, it won’t be easy to replace him either. Wallace has started in each of NYCFC’s first three games of 2018, all of which have been wins. And while it might not be as hard to replace him as it is to replace a former league MVP, it certaintly throws a wrench into the chemistry that the preffered Starting XI has built up over the past month.

So, what should NYCFC do?

In my opinion, the lineup should look like this:

GK: Sean Johnson

DEF: Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, Ben Sweat

MID: Ebenezer Ofori, Yangel Herrera, Maxi Moralez

FWD: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo Inge Berget, Jesus Medina

To account for Alex Ring’s absence, I have moved Yangel Herrera over to the defensive mid role and in his place have put Ebenezer Ofori. In my article about replacing Ring earlier this week, I expressed my concern with putting Ofori into an explicit, definitive defensive role given how his scouting report is, in my eyes, very indicative of a box-to-box midfielder. Though not a thoroughbread defensive mid, Herrera has proven in the past to be adept at filling in for Ring when the latter gets into more advanced positions or is otherwise unavailable.

I know everyone wants to see James Sands, but his time will come eventually.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi did a lovely job at replacing Villa last week against Orlando. As a matter of fact, he bagged his first-ever MLS goal in the process. However, he is not a natural striker. And while he has proven that he can slide into the no. 9 when absolutely needed, Tajouri-Shradi should not be looked to as a first-choice replacement at the striker position. Instead, I have chosen to go with former Malmo man Jo Inge Berget to step into the striker slot and prove his worth. We have seen little of the Norweigan since he’s arrived to the Five Boroughs, but reports out of training have all been positive. And if he has completely recupperated from his bout with the flu last week, I think he’s worth a look.

To replace Wallace, I have re-inserted Tajouri-Shradi into the right wing position, which is where he has primarily played in the past. To accomodate this, Jesus Medina has been moved over to the left wing. Though I think I speak for nearly all of NYCFC’s fan when I say that we want to see Medina line up on the right to contribute more goals, I think it’s more than adequate he be put on the left and in a more playmaking oriented role against the Revs. Plus, it’s where he played for most of his tenure with Libertad. And it certainly beats the alternative of putting Tajouri-Shradi on the left where he may be a fish out of water.

What do you think of these solutions? How would you go about replacing three key players this weekend? Let us know in the comments!