It’s Match Day 25, and New York City FC play expansion side Charlotte FC for the first time in club history.
While it’s not quite a must-win game for New York City, it’s something like a better-win: NYCFC could finish the season in first or second place in the Eastern Conference if they correct course and stop giving away results, and that would begin with a win today at
home Red Bull Arena.
Charlotte are putting together the best inaugural season since Atlanta United finished 2017 in fourth place with 55 points. They sit in 11th place, just four points behind a playoff spot, and their nine wins are more than what Columbus, New England, or Atlanta have managed this year. But most of those have come in front of the large, loud crowds at Bank of America Stadium, where they’re 8-0-4. Charlotte’s road record is a curious 1-10-2: They have a hard time winning away from home, but they're tough to beat.
Speaking of “home,” NYCFC are a tidy 1-1-1 playing at Red Bull Arena this year: They drew Seattle Sounders in the CONCACAF Champions League, lost to New Jersey Red Bulls in the US Open Cup, then beat New Jersey in an MLS league game. So you could say that the NYCFC are undefeated this year at Red Bull Arena (in MLS games). Or winless this year (as the home team).
Match: NYCFC vs Charlotte FC
Date and Time: Wednesday, August 17, 8 pm ET
Venue: Red Bull Arena
Bruce Arena Forecast: Overcast, humid, slight chance of showers, 72˚F/23˚C
Watch: ESPN+ (blackouts apply)
Stream: YES App
Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
• Player Availability: Keaton Parks is out after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot, and Alex Callens is out with an MCL injury. Anton Tinnerholm is available but not yet ready to put in a 90-minute performance, according to interim head coach Nick Cushing. Gabriel Pereira and Tayvon Gray are both questionable because of minor injuries.
• NYCFC logged back-to-back losses after falling to Inter Miami on Saturday by the score of 3-2. It was also the second consecutive game in which New York City gave up the lead: NYCFC were up 2-1 against Miami at the half, and were up 1-0 against Columbus Crew the week before.
• What will Cushing do to get the defense to regain their focus? The back line that was one of the best in MLS gave away goals in both of those losses. While Tinnerholm might be available to play some minutes the team will be without Callens for some time, and will need to make adjustments.
• While the defense put in a poor performance, the attack is starting to click: NYCFC scored two excellent first-half goals. Cushing is still tinkering with a lineup that has suffered since Taty Castellanos left for Girona FC, but the speed, technical ability, and drive that Talles Magno and Thiago displayed against Miami was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing game.
• Going to the game? Be sure to read Five Red Bull Arena hacks for NYCFC fans. Basically, get the Red Bull app if you want to save yourself the headache of waiting in lines that move wayyyyyy too slow.
• Charlotte are on a wild rollercoaster ride form-wise. They’re just 1-0-4 in league games, but that doesn’t begin to fill in the picture: Charlotte lost 5-0 at LAFC on Saturday, just one week after being edged at home by Chicago, but that was on the heels of a 3-0 destruction of DC United. Before that, Charlotte lost 4-0 to Toronto, beat Chelsea FC on penalty kicks, lost to Inter Miami in Florida, and dismantled Nashville SC 4-1 at home.
• So, which Charlotte will show up today? The club that scored three goals against DC, four against Nashville, and held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw? Or the club that let LAFC score five goals in the second half?
• Chalotte’s danger man is forward Karol Świderski. Last season, the 25-year-old was playing with Alexandru Mitriță at PAOK in Greece; this year, the 6’ 0” striker has seven goals in MLS league games. He’s a classic striker who requires service, and when he plays well Charlotte follow. But if he’s marked out of the game as he was by LAFC, Charlotte are lifeless.
• Charlotte’s midfield engine is Ben Bender, a 21-year-old attacking midfielder who was the number-one pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Bender, who has three goals and six assists this season, hugs the left, and will present a problem for Tinnerholm, Nicolás Acevedo, or whomever slots into NYCFC’s right defensive position tonight.
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