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Predicting New York City FC’s starting lineup against Orlando City

Who gives City their best chance at dispatching the Lions tonight?

New York City FC v Philadelphia Union - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Things aren’t all that good right now for New York City FC. To this point, City have lost all three of their competitive MLS games in the 2020 season, all to the tune of 1-0. And quite frankly, it’s been frustrating to see.

With their second game of the group stage for the MLS is Back Tournament scheduled for tonight at 8:00 PM against de facto hosts Orlando City — and having already lost their first to the Philadelphia Union last week — NYCFC need a win to keep their tournament hopes alive and instill some confidence in both its players and fans.

Obviously, things have not been working recently. So maybe some change is needed. With that said, I’m gonna put myself in Ronny Deila’s shoes and see if I can come up with a lineup that gives City the best possible chance at beating the Lions and returning to good form for future matchups.

This article reflects my views only. For further analysis, check out Connor Donohue’s preview from yesterday.

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Sean Johnson

This is a no-brainer. SeanJohn has been the man at the back since 2017 and there is no reason to start the seldon-seen Luis Barraza over him.

RB: Anton Tinnerholm

Since joining the club in 2018, Tinnerholm has been one of NYCFC’s most dynamic and consistent performers for over two seasons now. The Swedish fullback is a constant threat on both sides of the ball so it’s only natural he gets the start.

RCB: James Sands

SOCCER: MAR 11 Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal - New York City FC v Tigres UANL Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to Ronny Deila himself, NYCFC’s first-ever Homegrown Player signing James Sands has eclipsed team vice-captain Maxime Chanot as the starting center on the right side. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, but I can’t necessarily build a case against it. The young Rye, NY native is one of MLS’s most promising young talents and, until further notice, get used to seeing him on the back line.

LCB: Alexander Callens

City’s ironman has always been a strong presence on the defensive side of the ball. Tall, agile, and fearless, Callens possesses everything you’d want in a defender playing for a team in a league as physical as MLS. And thus far, the Peruvian has given me no reason to take his spot away.

LB: Guðmundur Thórarinsson

Our first major change — and possible hot take — comes at the left back position, with 2020 signing Guðmundur Thórarinsson coming into to replace longtime occupant Ronald Matarrita. For me, Mata has just been too inconsistent. Defensively, he often looks lost. And his offensive output has not been as potent as we’ve become accustomed to since his joining of NYCFC in 2016. Maybe it’s time for a change and for “Gudi” to get a shot in a key game.

RDM: Keaton Parks

I know — everything I just said could easily apply to Parks as well considering his weird performances since the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the MLS Cup Playoffs last November. But I’m not ready to put him on the hot seat just yet. I see Parks getting another crack at making a difference before City starts looking more closely at Nicolas Acevedo or Gedion Zelalem.

LDM: Alexander Ring

New York City FC v Philadelphia Union - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Ring is one of NYCFC’s best players. And given his ability on the field and role in the locker room as team captain, the Ringleader’s spot is all but a given. That’s all I need to say really.

RAM/RW: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

My frustrations with the performances of Jesus Medina have been well documented. And because of said frustrations, including him in any of my lineup choices is pretty much out of the question. For that, Tajouri-Shradi — easily one of City’s most consistent and clutch offensive performers — gets the nod against the Lions. It’s only right.

CAM: Jesus Medina

I know, I know. But despite what I just said, I don’t really have a choice — Jesus Medina gets the start at CAM in place of the injured Maxi Moralez. I was originally going to put Taty Castellanos in this spot until it was revealed that Alexandru Mitrita was listed as questionable for tonight. Therefore, our options are kinda thin.

LAM/LW: Taty Castellanos

SOCCER: MAR 11 Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal - New York City FC v Tigres UANL Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Instead of starting in the middle, Taty gets the nod at right wing. The young Argentinian had a breakout season in 2019, netting 11 goals and collecting 7 assists in 30 total appearances. Everything about Taty screams future star. Maybe 2020 is finally the year he becomes a full-time starter.

ST: Héber

Since the first CCL match against San Carlos, Héber has struggled to find the net. But the dynamic Brazilian is still NYCFC’s most proven source of goals up top and has more than enough talent to re-discover his groove. Expect him to do just that against Orlando.