Much like the proverbial wicked, there is no rest for Orlando City after Saturday night’s heroics at Exploria Stadium. The Lions have a quick turnaround and are hitting the road up the East Coast to take on New York City FC at Citi Field tomorrow night.
A matchup with NYCFC means I spoke to our friends over at Hudson River Blue, and Matthew Mangam was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on how the Pigeons have fared since these two teams last met. I also answered a few of his questions, which you can find over at their place.
NYCFC has struggled a bit when it comes to scoring goals, with its 18 tallies tied for third-fewest in the league. What needs to happen to jumpstart the attack as the team approaches a critical part of the season?
Matthew Mangam: NYCFC has struggled all season to score goals. The team has looked uninspiring in attack, even with striker Mounsef Bakrar. There are many reasons as to why this is happening. Some may say it’s Head Coach Nick Cushing, some may it’s certain players underperforming. In order for NYCFC to jumpstart in attack, I think Cushing should change his wingers for the rest of the season. New signing Julián Fernández looked impressive when he came on as a substitute against the Red Bulls. Talles Magno should start on the left wing. The front three of Magno, Bakrar, and Fernández could help bring a new spark to the offense.
New York is right in the thick of the race for a playoff spot, and matches against Miami, D.C. United, and the Chicago Fire are going to have massive implications. Why will this team get over the line and make the postseason, and why won’t it?
MM: Similarly to my answer for the first question, if NYCFC can start to score and win games, it could make the playoffs. But if the team continues to play dull and lifeless soccer, it will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Former Lion Andres Perea is on loan with NYCFC from Philadelphia. How has he performed since his arrival, and who are a few other names that Orlando City fans should watch during this game?
MM: Andres Perea has been impressive in the midfield. Unfortunately he is only on loan, as most of the fans want him in the squad permanently. Like I mentioned earlier, Fernández is definitely someone that can make an impact on the game. Magno is also someone who makes something happen if played on the wing. Santi Rodríguez has struggled at times this season, but when he is in form he is very dangerous in the attack.
Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspension, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MM: Maxi Moralez will be out for the rest of the season, as he unfortunately needs surgery to repair a ruptured ACL in his right knee. Keaton Parks also picked up an injury in the team’s last game against the Red Bulls. Cushing confirmed it was an ankle sprain, so I don’t think we will see him on Wednesday.
As for the starting lineup, I think NYCFC will rest some players due to the team playing three games in one week. I think Matt Freese will still start in goal, and the defense will still be the same, with a back three of Tayvon Gray, Thiago Martins, and Birk Risa. Braian Cufrè as a left wingback, and Mitja Ilenič as a right wingback. The two midfielders will be Andres Perea and either James Sands or Alfredo Morales. The front three will be Santiago Rodríguez, Mounsef Bakrar, and Julián Fernández.
Despite the strong XI, I think NYCFC will lose 3-1.
Thank you to Matthew for helping us get caught up on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!