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Tactics Time: How To Take 3 Against Vancouver?

Can NYCFC start the second half strong against their Canadian foe?

MLS: New York City FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief period of consistent success under new manager Dome Torrent, New York City FC returned to their wildly inconsistent form that had plagued them for years under the Vieira regime.

A 2-0 win over Orlando City looked nice for the Boys in Blue. many thought this would be the end of their road woes. However, there are a few important qualifications one needs to put on that win. Orlando are in a complete free-fall, and each loss only looks uglier than the last one. That can hardly be cited as having fixed their issues away from Yankee Stadium.

A date with Seattle, the worst offensive team in the league, loomed on Sunday. Though Alex Ring would miss this clash due to yellow card accumulation, I imagine few would have predicted the 3-1 thrashing delivered by the Sounders. It really shows what a linchpin Ring is to their system. Furthermore, it continued NYCFC’s baffling trend of poor performances against teams from the Pacific Northwest.

NYCFC will lock horns with another team from Cascadia, the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps have been in the news lately, with 17-year-old star winger Alphonso Davies set to move on for the greener pastures of world soccer titan Bayern Munich. He’ll finish the season with Vancouver, giving them a lethal pairing with him and Kei Kamara in attack. If Seattle can get three goals past NYCFC, Vancouver could easily replicate that. Here’s how to avoid that and get back on the right track.

  1. Line Up Like This

4-2-3-1: Johnson; Sweat, Callens, Chanot, Tinnerholm; Ring, Ofori; Tajouri-Shradi, Moralez, Medina; Berget

Bench: Stuver, Matarrita, Ibeagha, Castellanos, Sands, Lewis, Wallace

The biggest absence in the starting XI will once again be David Villa who, despite being omitted from the injury report this week, will miss his seventh straight contest due to his withdrawal from the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday. Jo Inge Berget — who has cooled off after a torrid start under Torrent — should return as the No. 9. If NYCFC truly run a meritocracy, there is no reason Rodney Wallace should start over joint-leading scorer Ismael Tajouri-Shradi or Jonathan Lewis. ITS should return to the left wing, with Jesus Medina on the right. Sandwiched between the wingers would be Maxi Moralez, who is quietly having an MVP campaign in Villa’s absence.

Alex Ring returns opposite Ebenezer Ofori. If there was any indication of the gulf in talent between Ring and Kwame Awuah; Sunday illustrated that quite clearly. The back four, led by NYCFC player of the month Anton Tinnerholm and the ever-improving Sean Johnson in goal, should remain intact. On the bench, 19-year-old loanee Valentin Castellanos — loaned with an option to buy from Club Torque in Uruguay — could be in line for his MLS debut. Castellanos can play several attacking positions, both on the wing or as a No. 10.

2. Vancouver Like to play Up-Tempo and Counter-Attack. Prevent Davies and Reyna from getting the ball out wide.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Manager Carl Robinson certainly knows the strengths of his club. With the aforementioned uber talent that is Davies and Peruvian international Yordy Reyna in attack, Vancouver are a team that plays fast and uses counter-attacking better than any other side in MLS. Though only Colorado possesses the ball for less than the Whitecaps, their eight counter-attack goals are the most in MLS, two ahead of 2nd place Atlanta United and four ahead of 3rd place New England Revolution.

As evidenced by his two ridiculous goals against DC United and Minnesota United, allowing Davies to get the ball on the wing and build up speed will leave your side with mouths aghast at the tremendous skill moves Davies put on them as he skates towards goal. With 4 goals and 4 assists, Reyna is starting to come into his own as an attacker. If you stop them out wide, they’ll just flip it in to Kei Kamara, the 10th highest scorer in MLS history.

Vancouver are like the New York Red Bulls in that they want to disrupt your rhythm and turn the game into a track meet that their superior athletes can win. Getting numbers back to defend will be essential for NYCFC. Fullbacks Sweat and Tinnerholm need to cut off service to Davies and Reyna, as Vancouver have neither the talent nor experience to consistently attack through the middle against Alex Ring and that back line.

3. Medina and Tajouri-Shradi’s creativity in the box will be essential for scoring against them.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While Jesus Medina does it more often, both he and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi fall into the trap of trying to do too much. Both are terrific talents, but trying to weave through an entire backline and making extra unnecessary passes looks cool in theory, but in practice can bring a premature end to many a possession. Against Vancouver — a team that leads the league in shots from within the 6 yard box at 10 percent — that creativity is exactly what NYCFC need.

David Villa’s evergreen spark will be missed sorely in this clash. Maxi Moralez should continue his fine form, but he’s better suited to dictating the action form afar that slaloming between defenders near the box. Look for ITS or Medina to break the deadlock with a shot form close range, as Vancouver have conceded way too many goals from areas like that this season.

4. Vancouver are an unpredictable, undisciplined squad. Look to cause chaos and have them shoot themselves in the foot.

MLS: Western Conference Knockout Round-San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Often times, especially late in games, Vancouver are fighting against themselves as much as they are their opponent. Vancouver’s mind-blowing 7 red cards (second place has 4) depict a squad that is prone to self-implosion at the worst times. Vancouver’s style of play has led to some impressive wins against the top of the league and blowouts against teams who will likely miss out on the playoffs, and their discipline and inconsistent make Vancouver a hard team to get a read on. However, if NYCFC play their normal possession heavy style, they may just be handed the game by a Vancouver squad that has gifted opponents plenty of wins in the past.