The Bleu-blanc-noir returns to Stade Saputo this Sunday afternoon at 5pm, taking on New York City FC (RDS, TSN, ESPN, 98,5fm & TSN Radio 690). Here are 10 things to know on the currently Eastern Conference-leading NYCFC.
After a rough start to this season, NYCFC found its groove. Since they tied 1-1 against the Impact at Yankee Stadium, on April 27, Patrick Vieira’s men have picked up 23 of 36 available points, reaching the top of the Eastern Conference. In its last game, on July 10, NYCFC suffered a 3-1 loss at Kansas City that snapped a four-game winning streak.
Patrick Vieira (8-6-6 all-time as NYCFC) was appointed NYCFC head coach on November 9, 2015. A world champion with France in 1998, Vieira is best known for his stint at Arsenal from 1996 to 2005. After stops at Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City, he accepted an administrative position with the Citizens upon retiring, in 2011. In May 2013, Vieira became head coach of Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad, which plays in the U21 Premier League in England.
Current top scorer
David Villa (12)
Players to watch
1. Frank Lampard (#8) – He was expected, and Didier Drogba’s former Chelsea teammate has delivered on expectations since returning to the field this season: four goals in his last five games.
2. Andoni Iraola (#51) – Iraola has moved up to shield the backline in recent games, and the Basque’s work contributes to Lampard being able to make those runs into space.
3. Jack Harrison (#11) – The new NYCFC sensation became a hero earlier this month when he scored a goal and delivered an assist against rivals New York Red Bulls.
Patrick Vieira wants a proactive team, a patient group that plays in the opposition’s half. The field dimensions at Yankee Stadium, 101x64 metres, fit that mentality. In front of their own goal, ‘keeper Josh Saunders often plays the ball out to his defenders to start an attacking phase – which doesn’t always work out so well. Side backs get forward, create overloads and draw opponents in, giving a midfielder like Pirlo an opportunity to switch the point of attack quickly and destabilize the opposition backline, especially on the right. Up front, David Villa occupies defenders, which opens space for the likes of Harrison, McNamara and Lampard. Still, Villa shoots a lot, and he brings a great deal of variety to his game; he’s dangerous between the lines, but he also troubles backlines with his runs in the channels – NYCFC scores quite a few goals in combinations and occupies the opposition’s penalty area. Upon losing the ball, NYCFC relish the duels and want to win the ball back as close as possible to goal. But their approach – as well as their technical, rather than physical, midfield – makes them vulnerable to counterattacks, and their defensive block can be all over the place. Matarrita and Allen’s runs forward leave wide pockets of space to be exploited. NYCFC has thus conceded numerous goals off of crosses, but manages to defend well down the middle when it can reorganize. On set plays, NYCFC can improve; while the several goals conceded in such situations in the 7-0 home defeat to the Red Bulls in May seemed to ring the alarm bell, old habits die hard – of the last five goals that NYCFC conceded, three came off of corner kicks, and another was a penalty kick.
After a few experiments early this season, Patrick Vieira seems to have settled on a broad 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 formation. Lineup v. Sporting KC (July 10): Saunders; Hernandez, Brillant, Mena, Allen; Lampard, Iraola, Pirlo; Harrison, Villa, Matarrita.
Against the Impact last season
David Villa’s first meetings with the Impact were kind to him. Villa first scored a goal and assisted another on June 13, 2015, in a 3-1 New York win at Yankee Stadium. Villa then came to Montreal and made no friends, on July 4, as he scored a brace to down the Impact, 2-1, at Stade Saputo. Villa notched a goal and an assist again on August 1, in New York, but this time around, Montreal got the upper hand, winning 3-2 thanks to a quick (obviously) goal by Dominic Oduro and two more by Ignacio Piatti.
Injuries (as of July 14)
D/M Connor Brandt (hip)
D Ronald Matarrita (ankle – should be available for selection)
F Steven Mendoza (core muscle)
F Khiry Shelton (undisclosed injury – should be available for selection)
New York Red Bulls v. NYCFC (MLS, July 24)
NYCFC v. Colorado Rapids (MLS, July 30)
San Jose Earthquakes v. NYCFC (MLS, August 5)