Ronny Deila’s men return home to play what would be their first ever Cup tie at Yankee Stadium. The competition in question? The Leagues Cup. Some would even go as far as to call it ‘the Europa League of North America’. It is a fairly new venture between the two largest and most popular leagues in North America: MLS and Liga MX. Here at Hudson River Blue, we’re all in! NYCFC have yet to pick up any major silverware and I’m of the opinion that any trophy matters if you try hard enough to convince yourself that it does.
Here, I’ll give you a basic rundown on the broader aspects of the competition and how NYCFC should approach the match against a storied opponent.
Why Should You Care?
Any chance to prove yourself against the best teams at the continental level is nothing to scoff at. Again, as a fan of a football club you always want to see your team lift trophies, and Ronny Deila seems to agree. When asked about squad rotation and his general demeanor towards the game he seemed to not be taking this opportunity lightly. He mentioned that the chance to play against Pumas as, “an experience for life” and one that the players should take seriously when it comes to building a winning culture.
Also, regardless of its new inception it does serve as a second tier continental championship. Both leagues sent the top 4 eligible qualifiers who otherwise did not qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). In the MLS’s case, it was two teams from each conference. Along with New York City are Sporting KC, Seattle Sounders, and Orlando City. The attitudes around the league for this competition have been varied to say the least. Seattle elected to go full strength and laid a 3-0 walloping on Tigres last night. Meanwhile, Peter Vermes for SKC chose to heavily rotate his side resulting in a lopsided 6-1 defeat at the hands of Leon. Deila seems to be at the happy medium between these two philosophies. Saying that his side will have a mix of older, more experienced players and younger kids.
Talles Magno: Our young Brazilian son is back! The 18-year-old, newly minted Young Designated Player will likely make his return after an unfortunate knee issue has hindered him since his signing in May. Deila described him as looking, “very sharp, a different player when he moves than before.”
Héber: While he is slowly returning from his ACL tear, he won’t be fit for this game. They will have another doctors appointment this week to see when striker can return to training.
Anton Tinnerholm: The Swedish international picked up a knock against Toronto and is not in the squad as a result.
Pumas UNAM Preview:
The Mexican side finished 5th in the Liga MX Aggregate Table. They are a very structured team who know exactly what they want to do, according to Delia. They can play a 4-3-3 or a 3-5-2 with pressing tendencies. They tend to pressure the full backs and put in a lot of crosses into varying runners from both the forward line and midfield. NYCFC will be without star right back Anton Tinnerholm who is replaced by young Tayvon Gray. The NYC Homegrown will be sure to have his hands full.
While the threat that Pumas pose is obvious, some familiar faces may be missing. They will at least be without Alfredo Talavera and Nicolás Freire and possibly Johan Vasquez. All three are integral members to the squad. These injuries have caused Pumas to suffer in terms of recent form, as they are winless in their last five matches in all competitions. City have an opportunity to advance in a continental competition against reeling Mexican opposition, and they should.
Our Pigeons should field a relatively strong lineup while also giving members of the squad who haven’t been receiving the most game time, an opportunity. I expect Sean Johnson to continue to mind the net as he returns to sharpness after his Gold Cup win. Santi Rodriguez hopefully gets a chance to show his full toolbox as well. While we are all chomping at the bit to see some Brazilian flare from the likes of Thiago and Magno, I think Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi will take up the wide positions.
City should look to take advantage in the middle of the park and put pressure on the oppositions replacement center backs. The injury crisis for Pumas has left them vulnerable in the heart of defense and Deila would do well to tactically adjust. This seems like the type of game where through balls into the channels from NYCFC’s midfield will be key. Look for Magno to provide a spark off the bench if New York struggle to win their one-on-one battles out wide.
NYCFC come into this fixture after two wholeheartedly disappointing performances in MLS play against the Chicago Fire and Toronto FC. They are the type of games that if you want to be challenging for the Supporters Shield, you just have to win. However, we all know how Cup success can light a fire in a football club and maybe that’s exactly what this squad needs. Feeling the indescribable emotions that come along with lifting a trophy and winning something, anything could set them off in the proper direction come time for MLS Playoffs.
A relatively young lineup, an out form, desperate Pumas team, all under the lights of Yankee Stadium. Should be a barn burner, you don’t want to miss it!