NYCFC are feeling good after two consecutive wins at home. First, there was the decisive 2-0 win over Liga MX champions Atlas FC in the Campeones Cup. Then there was the crystal-clear 2-0 win over an arrogant and ill-prepared New Jersey Red Bulls in the Hudson River Derby.
New York City clinched a playoff spot last night without stepping on the field when FC Cincinnati’s posted a shock loss to Chicago Fire. Today, NYCFC are playing for home-field advantage: A win will lift the Pigeons to third place and guarantee that New York City will play the first round of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs at home — wherever that might be.
The wind might be at NYCFC’s back, but Orlando aren’t an easy opponent. NYCFC’s gutting stoppage-time loss to Orlando in August not only perpetuated New York City’s near-historic 10-game-skid, it gave the Purple Cobras an advantage in the head-to-head between the two teams: NYCFC are 6-8-7 against Orlando, with 34 goals scored and 26 goals allowed.
Match: NYCFC vs Orlando City
Date and Time: Sunday, October 2, 1 pm ET
Venue: Red Bull Arena
Bruce Arena Forecast: Rainy, cool, autumnal 53˚F/12˚C
Watch: YES, ESPN+ (blackouts apply)
Stream: YES App
Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
• Player availability: No injuries, no suspensions. You read that correctly — for the first time since taking over, interim head coach Nick Cushing will have a full roster of players for his Starting XI. It’s wild. Alfredo Morales is back from an injury, as are Héber and Anton Tinnerholm. is out with a long-term injury.
• Alexander Callens, Morales, and Santiago Rodríguez are all one yellow card away from serving a suspension.
• How will Cushing line up his team? In both the Atlas and Red Bulls game he played three in the back with Kevin O’Toole slotted in on the left and Tayvon Gray on the right as wingbacks that fed the attack — as James Nalton wrote in the Outfield, “O’Toole was more wing and Gray more back.” O’Toole spent most of the season playing for NYCFC II in MLS NEXT Pro, but his play was impressive against both Atlas and Red Bulls. Will Cushing give him another start?
• Going to the game? Bring rain gear, and download the New York re Bulls App: That’s one of the five Red Bull Arena hacks every NYCFC fan should know.
• Red Bull Arena is no friend to NYCFC: The Pigeons are 0-1-2 as the “home” team there in MLS games this season, and 1-2-3 in all competitions. Will NYCFC continue to post poor results in what is an arena that is admittedly a nice facility but that simply doesn't draw the crowds or have the ambiance of Yankee Stadium or Citi Field?
NYCFC 2022 MLS Record by Venue
|Yankee Soccer Stadium||7||2||1||2.3||26||8||17||19,652|
|Red Bull Arena||0||0||2||0||2||5||-3||8,323|
• Orlando haven’t released an injury report, but some key starters might not make the lineup: Defender Robin Jansson and midfielder César Araujo are questionable, while striker Alexandre Pato is recovering from knee surgery.
• Orlando currently sit in sixth place with 45 points, but they’re in danger of being leap-frogged by Inter Miami, Columbus Crew, and even Charlotte FC — and knocked out of the playoffs.
• Orlando are running hot and cold. There was the 3-0 win over Sacramento Republic to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on September 7, and a 4-0 win over Toronto FC at home on September 17. But there was also a 5-1 drubbing by Philadelphia on September 10, and a 0-1 loss at home to Atlanta United on September 14.
• The Orlando attack will be led by midfielder Facundo Torres (7 goals), and forward Ercan Kara (10 goals). Although NYCFC fans will remember forward Tesho Akindele (3 goals) who scored the stoppage-time winner against New York City in August.
The comment section below is for everybody in the Hudson River Blue community to use for the game thread. Not a member? Sign up here — it’s free.