Today presents one of the biggest dilemmas in soccer.
Do you put out your first team to beat a rival in a key game or save them for the cup final next match? The New England Revolution desperately need a win today to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but is it worth trying to save their regular season or is it #OpenCupOrBust time?
Anyway, today we chat with Jake Gofman of our New York City FC blog Hudson River Blue about perhaps the only more frustrating team to watch every week in the Eastern Conference. Just how good can NYCFC be in Patrick Viera's first year? We'll find out at 8pm EST tonight. Don't forget to check out their site with my answers to their questions.
TBM: Home field is a big deal in MLS, and especially in the Eastern Conference, but NYCFC is one of the few teams with a more balanced home/away record and one of if not the best road record in the league. Is NYCFC actually better away from the postage stamp field of Yankee Stadium?
I like this question because at different points this season I would've given different answers. Early on, without hesitation I would have said that NYC FC is better away from home. It was something that was easy to back up when looking at the record, but also just watching the team on the road, the players looked more comfortable in the formation and using the "normal" sized pitch to generate their attack.
To be fair, the early part of the season Patrick Vieira was engineering lineups he believed would help us in the small stadium. He used a 3-2-2-3 for a good part of the early season run at home while employing a standard 4-3-3 on the road. I don't think that helped us gain an identity, nor did it actually pay dividends at home. In the end, he streamlined his formational tactics (and personnel) and it improved our chemistry and got us going in the right direction.
I think you're starting to see more equalization and regression to the mean now, with New York as a better home team but still a formidable away squad. We stole a few results early in the season away from home and lost or drew too many matches at home that we should have gotten better results from. Now we're seeing the team excel at home, winning its last five. The hope is that we can still believe we are road warriors and get a few results to close out the season.
TBM: Okay, NYC is one point clear of RBNY and TFC (Reds have a game in hand), can you guys hang on to the top seed in the East? And you still have a league game with Dallas which has Supporters' Shield implications, what can this team accomplish this year besides making the playoffs?
I hope so, but I'm not sure yet. I think I'm still in the "just-happy-to-be-here" mindset when it comes to our position at the top of the table, but RBNY and TFC are nipping at our heels and that game in hand to Toronto takes a top of the table finish out of our control. That game you mentioned at home is going to be difficult against Dallas, but we've had some big wins against Western Conference leaders at home of late (1-0 v LA, 5-1 v Colorado), so I think it's possible we get a draw or even a win from that depending on which NYC FC team shows up.
I'm pretty sure we're not the best team in the Eastern Conference, but I know that that does not matter given the current Playoff system. Finishing in the top two is really important in this system, and then after that it will depend on our form going into the Postseason. I don't think we're going to win the Cup this year, but crazier things have happened.
TBM: I know the Revs have been a frustrating team because they can't score but which NYCFC team shows up today - the one that's scored 48 goals? Allowed 47? Both? I have no idea what to expect from your team, help me out.
I think many of us at HRB struggle to figure out which New York team is going to show up for any given game, so you're not alone. Our recent run of form has been good (three wins, two draws and a loss in our last six), but there hasn't been a lot of consistency (some good defending, some prolific scoring, not always together). Even in our loss in this run against Orlando we were our own worst enemy, conceding a late penalty to give the game away.
I think it's safe to say the offensive firepower will be there for the match Saturday, with Frank the Tank in tremendous form and Villa still doing Villa things. It's a question of whether the defense is a cohesive unit or a sloppy mess. We've shuffled our personnel quite a bit in recent weeks as a result of injuries, international absences, and poor play, so the outcome of the match may depend on which group of players we use and how they look early on in the game. If the back four looks unstable, this could be a score-fest. However, if we look solid, this match may tip in NYC's favor.
Connor Brandt and Shannon Gomez remain out. Matarrita may be available but will likely come off the bench following his two matches with Costa Rica's National Team.
Saunders; Allen, Chanot, Brillant, Hernandez; Pirlo, Iraola, Lampard; McNamara, Villa, Harrison
I like NYC in this one 3-1. I think Vieira is going to use a smart backline with some experience, and I know we can get some goals with the talent we start up front.