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Decision Day Preview: Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC

Peter Nolan October 5, 2019

Who: Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC
When: Sunday, October 6th @ 4:00pm ET
LinePhiladelphia -127 | Draw +310 | NYCFC +285

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The Philadelphia Union wraps up the most successful regular season in its history when it hosts Eastern Conference champions NYCFC on Sunday, MLS Decision Day.

Philadelphia has more to play for in this division matchup, with the Union coming into Decision Day level on points with Atlanta United for second place but trailing on the tiebreakers for both wins and goal difference.

In other words, Philly needs help from New England if they are to overtake Atlanta and claim second place behind NYC in the East.

There are no such playoff implications on the line for New York, although no team wants to go into the postseason on a down note.

Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC Preview

Despite finishing on top of the eastern heap for the first time since the club’s MLS debut in 2015, New York comes into this season finale in lukewarm form having followed up an impressive 4-1 Yankee Stadium demolition of Atlanta with a less than sparkling effort in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at New England.

Injuries and yellow card suspensions played a part in New York’s somewhat tepid performance, although coach Dome Torrent will have been pleased to see striker Heber clock a full 90 minutes in his return from injury.

Torrent and NYCFC will welcome 19-year-old James Sands back for the season finale as the defender/midfielder is finally recovered from a dislocated shoulder. Sands should see some time on Sunday with the plan to have the Homegrown talent ready for the playoffs.

Heber didn’t get on the scoresheet (obviously) against New England but 15 goals in 22 games, just 18 starts, tells coach Jim Cutin and his Union players that they will have to be aware of the Brazilian on Sunday.

And while we are on the positives for the Bronx Boys, NYCFC head into the playoffs news that its best player, midfielder Maxi Moralez has extended his contract for seasons, tying the 20 assist man to NYC through 2021.

While Curtin’s troops will be on high alert whenever Heber is in sight of goal, Torrent’s men will have to pay special attention to Philadelphia’s 15 goal man Kacper Przybylko. A former Polish youth international, German born Przybylko will be looking to add New York to his list of recent high profile victims, having rung the bell versus LAFC and Atlanta. He also added a goal against San Jose in a 2-1 Union win on September 25th.

Where to Bet MLS in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

The Five Most Important MLS Games on Decision Day

Avatar October 3, 2019

MLS’s Decision Day is on Sunday. It is the last regular season game for everybody, and the whole league will play at the same time to decide various playoff matchups and seeding. For many, it is a crucial day.

Let’s run through the five most important matches.

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Portland Timbers vs San Jose Earthquakes

This is basically winner-take-all here. Both teams qualify for the postseason with a win. The Timbers, who will play at home (debatable whether that’s even a positive for them), make it through with a tie. San Jose, who trail seventh place by one point, have no chance at the playoffs if they lose, but would qualify if they draw at Portland and both FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids hold up their end of the bargain.

The Timbers will be without ice-cold forward Brian Fernandez, who will be suspended on a red card. San Jose’s current free-fall (five straight losses, though all have been against good teams) would indicate that Portland are the favorites here.

Portland -104 | Draw +300 | San Jose +225

Atlanta United vs New England Revolution

New England are safely in the playoffs, thanks to some epic long-term choking out of the Chicago Fire, but they would love to avoid traveling to a New York baseball stadium for the first round. A win against Atlanta (don’t count on it, but crazier things have happened) plus a Toronto FC loss to Columbus (more plausible) would move the Revs up to sixth.

Atlanta have all the motivation to beat New England, because any win on Sunday guarantees them second in the East and a rubber match with the Revs in the playoffs. Hosting Bruce Arena’s side again is much more favorable than having to deal with Toronto or even the New York Red Bulls in a knockout game.

Atlanta United -195 | Draw +330 | New England +475

Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United

The 2-5 slots in the Western Conference are up for grabs on Sunday. Seattle and Minnesota are locked at 53 points and 15 wins right now, with the Loons holding the goals tiebreaker and thus second place. The winner of this game secures second, while the loser could drop as low as fifth if the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake both win.

They might play to a cagey draw. That result could benefit both teams, but a Galaxy win and a Seattle-Minnesota draw would elevate LA to second and drop the Sounders and Loons. LA play the 11th-place Dynamo. Seattle and Minnesota should both be playing to win.

Seattle -117 | Draw +290 | Minnesota +270

FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC

In addition to being a rivalry match, this will be make or break for FC Dallas. A win over SKC and Dallas are in. A draw or loss, though, and they’d have to root heavily for Portland (and LAFC, to prevent a miracle rise out of Colorado).

Last week, FCD fell flat in a 3-0 loss to the Rapids, which assured that this game would be of interest. They will have to rebound here, and play much better on defense.

FC Dallas -177 | Draw +320 | Sporting +430

NYCFC vs. Philadelphia Union

This is the other end of the battle for second in the East. Atlanta have the wins tiebreaker, so the Philadelphia Union don’t control their destiny here. They’d need to win or draw and have the Five Stripes pick up fewer points against the Revs in order to finish second.

NYCFC have no immediate implications to play for here. But this might be the most interesting game of the week, given that both teams are elite and gearing up for a chance at a deep playoff run. NYC are the better team, and have a much clearer shot at going far in the playoffs. Philly could prove people wrong if they walk into Yankee Stadium and score an important victory.

Philadelphia -120 | Draw +300 | NYCFC +270

Previewing a Big Atlanta United-NYCFC Midweek Matchup

Avatar September 23, 2019

On Saturday, Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez went down with a scary knee injury. We don’t yet know the timetable, but no one in Atlanta seems optimistic, and it’s possible that Martinez will miss weeks or months.

Obviously, Martinez is a significant player whose injury carries significant consequences. He was in the middle of a 15-game goal streak when he went down, and he would have at least come close to beating out Carlos Vela and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Golden Boot. Atlanta’s attack changes completely without their star.

This is the backdrop for a crucial midweek match between Atlanta and NYCFC. A NYC win would all but seal them first place in the Eastern Conference, putting them ahead of Atlanta by seven points. If Atlanta wins, though, they would pull within one, and the Five Stripes’ final two games (against Montreal and New England) are both winnable. NYC face third-place Philly on Decision Day.

NYCFC vs Atlanta United Match Preview

NYCFC -118 | Draw +310 | ATLUTD +265

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First in the East gets you a first-round bye in the playoffs, which is extremely valuable. Wednesday’s game might be the biggest of the season for both teams. Let’s run through some tactical points:

1. Atlanta will likely play a three-at-the-back. NYCFC might as well, as they used something resembling a 3-4-3 in a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas on Sunday.

2. Dome Torrent’s Light Blues are MLS’s second-best team right now, and it probably isn’t close. They haven’t lost since August 11 (when they played at Atlanta) and they are the only team still in mathematical range of the Supporters’ Shield. Their attack is coordinated and deadly, and their possession is fluid and free-flowing. Maxi Moralez is a dark-horse MVP candidate, the orchestrator and maestro with high-volume possession influence.

While striker Heber is out with a collarbone injury, Valentin Castellanos is filling in capably at forward. Castellanos can score (he has 11 goals on the season), but most importantly he can do all the work of a No. 9. He occupies defenders to free space for Moralez and he makes the right channel runs, assuring that NYCFC’s attack keeps humming.

Atlanta will worry about the secondary scoring NYC can generate, with Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita, Anton Tinnerholm, and possibly Ismael Tajouri-Shradi off the bench able to put the ball in the net. Many teams struggle to find wingers and creators who can carve out chances in front of goal and run at defenders. ATL’s wingbacks (particularly the active Julian Gressel) will have to worry about NYC’s ability to get numbers in attack.

3. What will Atlanta do without Josef? It’s a good bet that Frank de Boer will start Brandon Vazquez up top as a target forward. When Martinez was out for three games in late June and early July, Vazquez started all three games, playing well enough to earn a couple more starts alongside Martinez in later July.

Vazquez is obviously a downgrade from Josef in terms of scoring, but the biggest concern could be the loss of a gravitational force up top. Martinez draws a ton of a attention, and he’s such a smart and savvy runner that defenses are constantly preoccupied with him. Vazquez won’t have that ability, and he’s not an especially fast or agile player to make up for it, nor is he a great passer of the ball.

A more intriguing option is Hector Villalba, who does not seem to be a favorite of de Boer. Villalba is lightning fast and a winger at heart, and he has a very good scoring record in MLS. He may not be a natural striker, and it’s not easy to see de Boer handing Villalba a start, but Tito playing up front ahead of Pity Martinez and Darlington Nagbe would be fun to watch.

Prediction

I’ll give the edge here to NYCFC, who are playing at home and facing an Atlanta team missing their best player.

Preview: NYCFC vs San Jose Eartquakes

Peter Nolan September 13, 2019

Who: NYCFC vs San Jose Earthquakes
When: Saturday, September 14th @ 12:30 pm ET
LineNYCFC -107 | Draw +275 | San Jose+255

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Two teams and two coaches on a redemption arc meet Saturday evening in the Bronx when Dome Torrent’s New York City FC play host to Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes.

With NYC sitting atop the Eastern Conference and San Jose in fifth place, just two points behind second-place Real Salt Lake in the West, it may be difficult to remember the doubts surrounding both coaches when their respective team’s struggled early in the season.

Almeyda arrived in San Jose as one of the big off-season catches in all of MLS. Arriving directly from Chivas de Guadalajara, where he collected five trophies in his three seasons, landing the Argentine was seen as raising the bar on MLS coaching hires.

Then the season began with the Quakes losing five in a row out of the gate by a combined score of 14-2. The run included a 4-1 road loss to the New York Red Bulls and a 5-0 home humbling at the hands of LAFC.

Observers wondered if his new team would ever master Almeyda’s unique man to man marking system and the old doubts about foreign coaches succeeding in MLS (Tata Martino excepted) began to emerge.

Meanwhile, on the league’s opposite coast, NYCFC began the season with a spate of draws, sharing the points an astounding eight times against four wins and just one loss in its first 13 outings.

The knives may not have been out for Torrent just yet but they were being sharpened, with High Press Soccer wondering if Torrent, a longtime assistant to Pep Guardiola, was up for the top job.

The NYC head coach confirmed the notion when he told NYCFC radio man Glenn Crooks that, “Right now I am in trouble as a head coach – I know and I have to accept that.”

Two programs on the rise

Both men would turn it around. They come into Saturday’s match with much to play for.

As mentioned, The Quakes are in the thick of it in a Western Conference that is packed tightly behind runaway league-leading LAFC. Any of the teams from second to eighth are still capable of a top-four finish (securing a home playoff game), while missing out on the postseason is still a possibility.

For the home team, the playoffs are a certainty. Positioning, a little less so. Torrent would love to lead NYC to its first Eastern crown, which comes with home-field advantage for as long as they go before possibly facing Bob Bradley’s juggernaut.

San Jose will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing midweek loss to division rivals Real Salt Lake. NYC will try to get back in the win column after a 1-1 draw with Toronto snapped the Cityzens five-game winning streak.

NYCFC vs San Jose Preview

New York will have to contain a San Jose attack that is led by a rejuvenated ChrisWondolowski. Wondo passed Landon Donovan as the all-time MLS leader in goals scored earlier in the campaign and has racked up 13 on the season.

Wondo is surrounded by some useful players like team assist leader Christan Espinoza (13 helpers), Vako (8 goals), Magnus Eriksson (6 goals and 8 assists) and U.S. international Jackson Yueill.

The 22-year-old Yueill is one player who has clearly benefited from Almeyda’s tutelage. The young midfielder was an afterthought in previous seasons before blossoming under Almeyda to the point that he has earned a look with the U.S. National Team.

Tommy Thomson is another young American that has flourished under new San Jose boss, earning regular time at fullback after struggling for minutes as a winger under previous coaches.

With the International break out of the way, NYC should be prepared for what San Jose has to throw at them. It was a makeshift side that Torrent sent out against Toronto and the 1-1 draw was a decent result, preserved by a fine Sean Johnson penalty save, Johnson having been released early by the USMNT.

NYC is still without striker Heber, the Brazilian that turned NYC’s season around after his April arrival but talisman Maxi Moralez will be back after missing out against TFC due to yellow card accumulation and his return should be enough to spark NYCFC to a home victory.

Where to Bet NYCFC in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC

Peter Nolan August 30, 2019

Who: Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 10:00 pm ET
LineVancouver +320 | Draw +310 | NYCFC -139

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Hot on the heels of an impressive Hudson River Derby win over the New York Red Bulls, MLS Coach of the Week Dome Torrent and his NYCFC team fly cross-continent to face the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening.

While New York may complain of jetlag, a la Wayne Rooney, Vancouver should be the more tired of the two sides having made a cross country journey of their own following Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Montreal. Brutal.

Rooney may have a point.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC Match Preview

If New York City is to build on that Derby victory it will have to find a way to solve Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, the red hot Canadian international who set an MLS record with 16 saves on Saturday versus San Jose.

Crepeau erased USMNT legend Tony Meola’s mark, with many of his saves of the spectacular variety.

Despite their goalkeeper’s heroics, Vancouver still managed to lose that match 3-1. So Torrent and his charges will be hunting for the full three points.

Due to continued absence through injury of James Sands, Torrent will likely continue with the same four back system that worked so well versus their neighboring Red Bulls last time out. This line-up features Maxime Chanot and partner Alexander Callens centrally with Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita on the flanks.

Minus Sands, that defense may be a bit vulnerable but it can still be an effective group. The fullbacks remain terrors on the wing, and midfielders Alex Ring and Keaton Parks are capable of providing cover defensively while also contributing to the City attack.

That attack is fed by MLS assist leader Maxi Morales; is he still underrated or has the MLS public finally copped on that the diminutive Argentine is one of the best players in the league?

Twin strikers Heber and Vincent Castellanos are a terror upfront and likely too much for the Vancouver defense to contain, even backed by Crepeau.

New York winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been out for several weeks now and appears close to a return. It may not be in time for Vancouver but ITS provides a goal scoring threat alongside New York’s other weapons and Torrent will welcome his return, whenever that comes.

The Whitecaps have taken a step backward this year, sitting in last place in their first season under Marc Dos Santos. The Caps finished eighth in 2018, just two points out of the playoffs.

Why? Well, Vancouver doesn’t score goals.

Its total of 29 goals is bested, (worsted?) only by Cincinnati’s 27. And to make matters worse, Vancouver doesn’t defend; only three teams have allowed more goals than the 50 that Whitecaps have leaked.

What threat the Caps do possess is largely down to Jordy Reyna, the Peruvian midfielder/forward who has five goals, good for second on the club. He’s just one behind Fredy Montero, who has scored four of his six goals from the penalty spot.

Dos Santos may look to Candian international Tosaint Ricketts for some inspiration up top. The versatile veteran has appeared in only three games this season,and received his first start of the campaign against Montreal Wednesday night, picking up an assist on Reyna’s goal.

22 year-old Korean international and Young Designated Player Inbeom Hwang is an exciting young player that will give New York coach Dome Torrent something to think about as well.

Prediction

By any and every metric, NYCFC is the better squad. Anything less than a point would be a disappointment. Expect NYCFC’s offense to be too much for Vancouver to contain and for the Pigeons to collect all three points.

 

 

Hudson River Derby Preview: NYCFC vs New York Red Bulls

High Press 10 August 23, 2019

Who: NYCFC vs New York Red Bulls
When: Saturday, August 24th @ 07:00 pm ET
LineNYCFC +100 | Draw +280 | New York Red Bulls +235

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The table could not be set any better for Saturday night’s edition of the Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium, the second and final regular-season match-up between the local rivals in 2019.

Each of the teams is coming off a win on Wednesday night, with NYCFC dispatching Columbus in the Bronx while the New York Red Bulls took three points and the Atlantic Cup off of old rivals DC United in a thriller.

Those results leave NYCFC one point behind joint Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union. The Red Bulls are in fourth place, three points behind NYC.

And for a little added spice to an already potent rivalry, NYCFC has likely still not gotten over the circumstances that led to the Red Bulls 2-1 victory on July 14th in round one of this MLS Heavyweight bout.

The controversy surrounded the game-winning goal, alertly scored by RBNY from a quickly taken throw-in by Alex Muyl while NYCFC hesitated, waiting for the corner kick, as called by the linesman. Referee Alan Kelly, considered by many to be the top referee in the league, initially said that he had overruled the corner and that he had informed both teams.

Speaking to Pro Soccer USA’s Glenn Crooks a few days after the match, Howard Webb contradicted that statement. Webb, the general manager of the Professional Referees Organization, conceded that the officiating crew was at fault for the confusion that led to Royer’s game-winner.

“With hindsight, the referee should have stopped the game at that point and indicated to everybody to give clarity that the restart was going to be a throw-in.” Webb added, “there was a verbal indication to the assistant that it should be a throw-in, but there was no time to communicate to the NYC players.” “To be clear,” the former English Premier League official added,” there was no communication from the referee to the players.”

So, there’s that.

NYCFC vs New York Red Bulls Preview

NYCFC enters the game at even money. They’ve been the better side overall this season and as of late (LWLWW to RBNY’s LWLDW). They have the league’s third best point differential at +14, trailing Atlanta’s +15 and LAFC’s absurd +46. Probability models favor NYCFC as well:

However, the Red Bulls will be riding high after taking the full complement of points home from their trip to our nation’s capital. Daniel Royer has been particularly strong, pairing with Alejandro Romero Gamarra for goals against DC. For the Red Bulls to really have a chance this match, Aaron Long will need to have a strong performance. His game against DC was statistically his best game–including international competitions–since May against Montreal.

With MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez, Heber, Valentín Castellanos, and Alexandru Mitrita, RBNY have to contend with a lot of firepower. If it’s anything less than a Premier League level performance from Long and Michael Murillo, it could be a long night for the MLS originals

 

Preview: NYCFC vs Columbus Crew

Peter Nolan August 19, 2019

Who: NYCFC vs Columbus Crew
When: Wednesday, August 21st @ 7:00 pm ET
LineNYCFC -186 | Draw +330 | Columbus Crew +450

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Fresh off a palette cleansing 4-1 win at Cincinnati, NYCFC will be looking to add three more points when they play host to the Columbus Crew Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

NYCFC will do this without James Sands, the 19-year-old center back/midfielder who has been a key part of the team’s success so far in 2019. Sands faces an extended time on the sidelines after suffering a broken collarbone versus Cincinnati.

Sands had previously sustained a broken arm against the Ohioans, so don’t expect NYCFC’s first-ever Homegrown signing to be vacationing in the Buckeye State anytime soon.

NYCFC vs Columbus preview

New York will be welcoming a Crew side that has begun to make the adjustment to Caleb Porter from longtime leader Gregg Berhalter. They are undefeated in over a month, having drawn their three previous matches.

The peculiar streak has not exactly rocketed the Crew up the standings. Columbus sits in 11th place in the MLS Eastern Conference, just one point above their in-state rival, Cincinnati.

New York will need to keep a particular eye on Pedro Santos, their 31-year-old Portuguese DP who has racked up nine goals this season in 26 games. Santos’ production, which includes three assists, has helped get the Crew on track after their leader and playmaker Federico Higuain went down to an ACL injury late in May. Columbus was already struggling but an indication of Pipa’s importance to this team is that Higuain is still the team leader with five assists.

NYC come into the match still trying to take advantage of the team’s games in hand over its division rivals. The Pigeons having lined out 24 times in 2019 as compared to 26 matches played by division-leading Atlanta, NYRB, and New England. Second-place Philadelphia Union and fourth place DC United sandwich NYC in the Eastern Conference standings having played 27 times this campaign.

New York’s win over Cincinnati was a badly needed one. It came on the heels of a top of the table battle in Atlanta that went to United in straight sets, with the gulf in class between the 2019 champions and New York making NYC look like pretenders.

New York was dominated by Atlanta to such an extent that NYC boss Dome Torrent called out the courage of several of his players. Those same players showed resilience against last-place Cincinnati, running out a 4-1 winner after falling behind early at Nippert Stadium.

His squad already formation fluid, Dome Torrent ran out a 4-3-3 that managed to get both of his center forwards, Valentin Castellanos and Heber, on the pitch at the same time, and it worked a charm with the two strikers each bagging a brace versus Cincinnati.

With Alexandru Mitria filling out the attacking trio. all-important Maxi Moralez drops back into the midfield role that best suit his playmaking skills. This leaves captain Alex Ring and reinstated Keaton Parks to do the midfield dirty work after Torrent dropped Parks for the Atlanta match to deleterious effect.

The good news, however, does not continue to NYC’s defensive wall directly in front of goalkeeper Sean Johnson. With Sands set to miss considerable time, and the status of likely replacement Alexander Callens and All-Star caliber fullback Anton Tinnerholm up in the air.

Ben Sweat and Eric Miller are on hand to fill in but Johnson may need to be extra sharp in order to keep Santos, Gyasi Zardes and company at bay Wednesday night in the Bronx.

Match Preview: Cincinnati FC vs NYCFC

Peter Nolan August 15, 2019

Who: Cincinnati vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 17th @ 7:30 pm ET
LineCincinatti -245 | Draw +280 | NYCFC -105

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Badly, if not quite desperately, in need of a win, a humbled NYCFC travels to to face the league’s worst team, Cincinnati FC, Saturday night at Nippert Stadium.

The Bronx boys dropped a 2-1 decision to Atlanta United last Sunday. No disgrace there. However, how NYC capitulated was enough to get a rise out of Dome Torrent.

The New York City FC coach felt that his team was afraid to play the short pass. Instead, they opted for the “safety” of the long ball, upsetting to Torrent because that contradicts the style that he preaches and the way of playing that has led to NYCFC’s best moments in 2019.

“What is the reason why you play different against Atlanta?” Torrent asked in his post-game comments. “If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. You have to be brave in Atlanta. If you want to play here, you have to be brave. If you are scared here, forget about it. Stay in New York. You have to play. If you play all the time quickly, quickly and lose the ball every three seconds it’s impossible to win here.”

New Cincinnati coach Ron Jans employs the high press. His new charges did so to good effect in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw versus Columbus Crew in the “Hell is Real” Derby. Still, NYCFC should have better success against the expansion side or some of Torrent’s players might be wishing they had been allowed to “stay in New York.”

Cincinatti vs NYCFC Preview

Cincinnati has had a difficult transition to the big leagues after conquering all comers to win the 2018 USL title. The club is already on its second coach with Jans recently taking over from USL holdover Alan Koch.

Cincinnati has recently added a Derrick Etiene from the New York Red Bulls. Etiene is a tricky winger/forward with talent that could never make his breakthrough in New York. Joe Gyau, haunted by injury for years, has come on board from second division German side MSV Duisburg.

Still just 26 years old, Cincy is banking on Gyau maintaining some of the speed and skills that made him a top American abroad long before Christian Pulisic. In fact, Pulisic’s old club Borussia Dortmund is one of five German clubs to have had Gyau on the books during his injury-ravaged career. Gyau spent the last two seasons in the German second division, first with SG Sonnenhof Großaspach and then with MSV Duisburg.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter clearly believes in Gyau. The current boss gave Gyau the most recent of his three full caps in June, calling the winger in as a substitute versus Jamaica.

Cincinnati has also added fullback Andrew Gutman, on loan from Glasgow Celtic. Gutman impressed, drawing praise from Jans. “I was really satisfied with his performance and also with his stamina, his fitness,” Jans told the club website after the 2-2 stalemate with Columbus. “He was taking initiative. In attacking, he can help us. I think he did a good, proper job also defensively, so a good debut.”

If it all seems a bit slapdash, I suppose that is to be expected with a team that has so far compiled a record of 5 wins, 17 losses, and 3 draws. And the MLS newcomers don’t discriminate. Cincinnati is bad on both sides of the ball. Their 25 goals are the least in the league. Defensively no team comes close to matching Cincy’s 57 goals surrendered.

The same can be said for the team’s play at home and on the road. Only Montreal can match Cincinnati’s 2 home wins for the league-worst. That is in part why NYCFC finds themselves as odds-on favorites on the road.

NYCFC’s +2 goal differential is far superior to Cincinatti’s almost incomprehensible -32. Still with 2-3 games in hand to their Eastern conference peers, NYCFC’s playoff spot seems secure. A win Saturday is a must though to stay in contention for the top spot in the conference.

Preview: Atlanta United vs New York City FC

Peter Nolan August 10, 2019

Match: Atlanta United vs. NYCFC
Date and Time: Sunday, Aug 11 at 4:00pm ET
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Line: Atlanta United-136 | Draw +290 | NYCFC +330

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Third place NYCFC is coming to town to battle second place Atlanta United, the top deck is open and tickets are going like __ (insert favorite Atlanta or Southern food here). This game is set up so well it could be an MLS regular-season game to excite even Zlatan!

And if not, why not? Both teams are coming off wins and looking to chase down first place Philadelphia Union (42 points) as we head into the business end of the season.

After a slow start to the campaign, 2018 MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez is back leading the Atlanta attack. Don’t look now Carlos Vela, but Martinez has scored in nine consecutive matches, tying his MLS record.

That scoring run has Martinez, who set the single season league record last year with 31, on 18 goals, just four behind Vela.

Atlanta is, of course, a different team this year without Miguel Almiron and with Frank de Boer behind the bench in place of Tata Martino.

Gone too is Atlanta’s expansive, easy on the eye style. The switch to de Boer’s more rigid ways took some adjusting to for 2018 MLS Cup Champions, as they seemed to be asking if it’s not broke, why fix it?

The one player that has benefitted from the new way is center back Miles Robinson, a 22-year-old American that finds himself in contention for the U23/Olympic team, having become a regular under de Boer, playing all 24 of United’s games in 2019, starting 23.

Interestingly, Robinson’s situation is a virtual echo of the one James Sands faces with NYCFC. Sands also went from a spare part under Torrent and his successor Partick Vieira in 2018 to a key piece of the puzzle for his club, starting at the center of a three-center back set.

Sands missed some time recently with a broken arm and Torrent rested the 19-year-old for Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Houston but expect the Rye, New York native back in the lineup Sunday against Martinez and company.

Sands is teamed with veterans Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with the experienced pair also providing some beef that the 5’11” Sands, listed at 162 pounds lacks, allowing the former midfielder to showcase his ball-playing skills from the center of the defense.

It was a big moment for NYC against Houston when Maxi Moralez checked into the game Thursday night, mere moments after 10 man Houston had taken a 2-1 lead with a Mauro Manotas goal, decidedly against the run of play.

Moralez is the key to New York’s attack, teaming with Alexandru Mitrita and striker’s Heber and Valentin Castellanos who came off the bench to score the tying and winning goals versus Houston.

Atlanta has been extremely reliant on Martinez for goals this season. The Atlanta marksman’s 18 goals are a far cry from the four each tallied by Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco, next on Atlanta’s goals list.

Barco has yet to live up to the hype generated by his big money move to Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. Doubts were swirling around Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez earlier this season, but the tide seems to be turning. If Pity is synched up with Josef Martinez come playoff time, then Atlanta could mount a serious defense of its title.

As for Sunday, Atlanta’s home record of 9 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws makes United a favorite against any team coming into Mercedes Benz, with the possible exception of LAFC. New York should make it tough on United and a draw isn’t out of the question, but with 70,00 plus screaming fans behind them Atlanta should enjoy some home cooking come Sunday.

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NYCFC vs Houston Dynamo Match Preview and Odds

Peter Nolan August 8, 2019

Who: NYCFC vs. Houston Dynamo
Where: Yankee Stadium – Bronx
When: August 8 – 7:00 PM ET
Line: NYCFC -210 | Draw +335 | Houston +540

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STREAMING: MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada

New York City FC returns home to the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium Thursday night following last weekend’s disappointing 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake. With all of their rivals playing over that same weekend, NYC retained games in hand over the four teams above them in the standings.

A win on Thursday would, therefore, see NYC climb to third in the East with 38 points, one behind Atlanta.

NYCFC comes into this match in a feisty mood, led by coach Dome Torrent who is none too happy with the league for deciding to play his star Maxi Moralez versus Atletico Madrid in last week’s All-Star game.

Here is what Torrent told NYCFC radio broadcaster, Glenn Crooks (@GlennCrooks):

Dome Torrent, missing his 10, isn’t happy w/ #MLS: “I don’t understand why @MLS decide to play w/ Maxi Moralez. Everybody knows he was injured. He played 70% walking all the time. I’m not sure if he’s ready to play the next game. And look-he played in All-Stars.” #RSLvNYC #NYCFC

Given that we saw Moralez limp off of the Etihad Pitch at Yankee Stadium on July 26, just four days before the All-Star Game, and given further that Moralez did not dress for New York’s 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on August 3rd, Torrent would seem to have every reason to be angry.

The status of the MLS assist leader is uncertain for Thursday.

NYCFC vs Houston Dynamo Preview

Houston comes to the Bronx without a goal on its side of the ledger over its past 180 minutes, dropping a pair of 1-0 losses at home to Chicago and Seattle. Wilmer Cabrera’s side has to go back to July 20th for a goal-scoring memory, when the Dynamo put three into the Toronto net in a 3-1 victory.

Former NYCFC fan favorite Tommy McNamara notched one that night. The Rockland County native has become an important piece for Cabrera both from the start and off of the bench.

This match also offers New York area fans one last chance to tip a cap or raise a glass, or in some way honor the USMNT great DaMarcus Beasley, who has announced that this will be his final season as a professional soccer player.

Along with having one of the all-time great nicknames, Run DMB has represented American soccer since 2000 and through four World Cups, the only American to actually play in four Mundials. He is also the first Yank to have advanced to the UEFA Champions League Semifinal, where his PSV Eindhoven was eliminated by AC Milan.

With six starts this season, Beasley is no longer a regular for Houston, but he is still capable of providing a moment of magic. He did so versus Club America in the inaugural League’s Cup on July 24 when he turned the clock all the way back, raided down the left wing and powered a beaut past the Mexican club’s keeper. Houston lost on PKs but it was a fitting reminder of what Run DMB has provided for the USMNT for so many years.

If Houston is to trouble NYC at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, then that trouble will likely come from one of Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis, or Romell Quioto, with Memo Rodriquez and Tommy McNamara on hand to lend support.

But New York will be looking to make up for a disappointing trip to the mountains last week and Maxi Moralez’ status notwithstanding, Torrent’s men should come out on top.

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Preview: Real Salt Lake vs NYCFC

Peter Nolan August 3, 2019

Who: Real Salt Lake vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 10:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium
Line: RSL +138 | Draw +240 | NYCFC +185

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NYCFC have made the long trek to Sandy, Utah ahead of Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake. RSL is in the midst of some turbulence with coach Mike Petke set to serve the second game of his three-game MLS suspension.

The ex N.Y. Red Bulls boss has also been fined $25,000 and banned for three future League’s Cup matches. The suspension is for the use of unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials.

Petke must also attend anger management, sensitivity and diversity training.

Commissioner Don Garber was not pleased, and although the exact language used has not been released, Petke is rumored to have directed a homophobic slur at the referee. “There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in our society, and Major League Soccer does not tolerate the repugnant language used by Mr. Petke.”

“All MLS players, staff and fans must know that these comments are unacceptable, and I am extremely disappointed that a leader of one of our clubs used such insensitive language. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”

– Don Garber on RSL coach Mike Petke

RSL vs NYCFC Preview

Now to the game. RSL cannot afford to be distracted by all of this. The club is in a playoff battle, tied on points with seventh-place Portland, and just two back of FC Dallas for sixth place.

RSL is coming off of a decent 3 wins -1 loss -3 draws stretch and might have come away from Dallas with a big win were it not for some acrobatic goalkeeping by Jesse Gonzalez.

Sam Johnson leads the attack for Salt Lake, who will be coached once again by assistant Freddy Juarez who led RSL out versus FC Dallas last Saturday.

Johnson leads RSL with eight goals but it is a fairly balanced attack. Albert Rusnak has contributed seven goals and three assists. Jefferson Savarino has added five goals with Danny Kralich chipping in with four goals and three assists.

American soccer icons, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, are still at it for RSL. However, Rimado announced that he will hang up his gloves at the end of the 2019 season.

RSL also features a contingent of somewhat younger Americans from center-back Justen Glad and fullback Aaron Herrera. They also feature the versatile Brooks Lennon, midfielder Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, and forward Corey Baird.

Lennon, Glad, Herrera, and Saucedo captured the CONCACAF title for the United States and advanced to the final eight in South Korea in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Championships.

New York will be aware that Salt Lake enjoys its home cooking, compiling a 7-2-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium.

New York won’t be too worried, though. With a 4-2-4 road record, they’re second in the league to Bob Bradley’s LAFC. MLS is a notoriously difficult league on road teams, so much so that LAFC and NYCFC are the only teams in the league above .500 away from home. DC United is dead level at 4-4-4.

While RSL is slightly favored in this match, should they be?

With Alexander Ring playing out of his skin on both sides of the ball, MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez dishing, Heber making goal-scoring look routine and the remainder of Dome Torrent’s side proving more than ample backup, it would surprising not to see the visitors from the east emerge with at least one point, if not the full complement.

NYCFC Mid-Season (!) Grades

Peter Nolan August 2, 2019
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Only Major League Soccer could have an All-Star break where no one actually gets any time off.

For example, NYCFC is back in action this Saturday in Salt Lake, eight days after defeating Sporting KC 3-1 in the Bronx.

That victory sent New York City Football Club into the “Break” in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, a slightly closer look at the standings paints a rosier picture for Dome Torrent’s men.

By some quirk in the schedule, likely to do with the team’s status as the New York Yankees tenants in the Bronx, NYCFC has played just 20 games, three less than any other Eastern Conference team.

NYCFC is just four points behind Philadelphia Union with four games in hand. They are second in MLS with 1.75 points per game behind the LAFC juggernaut, averaging 2.23 ppg, and well positioned to make a late charge up the table.

So, how did NYCFC get here? Let’s take a look. Here are their “mid-season” grades.

Goalkeepers: B+

Since coming to the Big Apple for the 2017 season, Sean Johnson has revived his career in the Bronx.

Under Patrick Vieira and now Torrent, Johnson has improved his ball-playing skills and has earned his way back into the USMNT picture under Gregg Berhalter. Johnson was selected to the Gold Cup squad, where he played one match while serving as Zack Steffen’s backup.

With one notable exception versus Minnesota in April, Johnson has largely eliminated his propensity for the big error, or howler, and provides leadership and stability as well as superior shot-blocking for NYCFC.

Despite a shaky moment or two, NYC won three of the four matches career backup Brad Stuver played while Johnson was on international duty, losing once and earning Stuver his first MLS shutout.

Defense: A-

Torrent has built an effective and versatile defense in front of Johnson, a unit that the Spaniard can send out in a three back set or a four back with equal confidence. Surprisingly, the key to the NYC defense has turned out to be 19 year-old James Sands, the first Homegrown Player in club history. Sands entered the 2019 season as a midfielder with just four first-team appearances over two years.

Something seemed to click for the team and the player when Sands was dropped in between veterans Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot in a three back-formation.

With Anton Tinnerholm ever-present at right fullback/right wingback and Ronald Matarrita emerging over Ben Sweat as the first choice on the opposite flank, the three back set looks look NYC’s best bet going forward.

Sweat has as many appearances this season as Matarrita and Torrent can use the two at once with “Mata” playing further up the pitch. Eric Miller was recently acquired to provide cover for Tinnerholm, who has played every minute for NYCFC this season and has been outstanding.

Midfield: B+

On Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Torrent sent out what looks to be his team’s best starting 11. Johnson, Chanot, Sands, and Callens at the back, with Tinnerholm and Matarrita flanking captain Alex Ring and Keaton Parks. Finally, he opted for a front three of Maxi Moralez, Heber, and Alexandru Mitrita.

As Friday’s match unfolded, Parks dropped deeper defensively while Ring pushed into the attack, scoring one goal and assisting on two more.

So, are Tinnerholm and Matarrita midfielders? If not, is NYC plying with just two midfielders? It all just points out that systems are flexible.

MLS assist leader Moralez, was listed as a wide forward but spent much of his time floating around the center of the pitch and Tinnerholm and Mata still could not neglect their defensive duties.

However you slice it, NYC has a talented midfield group led by Ring and his newish midfield partner Keaton Parks. Ring has been a do-everything stalwart for the Pigeons since his arrival from FC Kaiserslautern for the 2017 season.

Parks is a 21-year-old Texan arrived on a season-long loan from Portuguese giants Benfica but had had to bide his time before earning a spot in the starting 11. When I asked Ring after that win on Friday what Parks brings to the side the captain put it this way, “he was always neat on the ball and ran his ass off and he’s earned his chance.”

Torrent has plenty of depth in the midfield with Ebenezer Ofori, Jesus Medina his first options off of the bench and Matarrita always happy to be pushed forward.

Forwards: B+

As we’ve seen Moralez, though really a midfielder, can be deadly wherever he initially lines out. However, it is his play in combination with a pair of recent arrivals that makes this NYC team a threat to go deep in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Alexandru Mitrita arrived from Universitatea Craiova in his native Romania just prior to the season but despite his quality, NYC was still lacking a true number nine. On March 21, Tab Ramos and the NYCFC front office finally delivered, signing Héber Araújo dos Santos, or Heber, to fill that role.

Heber debuted in a goalless draw versus Montreal in the Bronx but it soon became apparent in Moralez, Mitrita, and Heber that NYCFC had a Big 3 that had a chance to be special. Heber has been an instant hit, scoring nine goals in 13 games, 11 of them starts. Playing the number nine role for NYC, Heber provides a focal point for the teams’ deep attack.

When healthy, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi can return Moralez to the midfield, but injuries have slowed last year’s 11 goal scorer to just four in 12 games (8 starts). If Isi is healthy down the stretch NYC will be very dangerous.

20-year-old Argentine Vincent Castellanos failed to fire last season, his first in New York, but since the arrival of Heber, the young striker has become a dangerous weapon off of the bench and as an occasional starter.

One failure this season at NYCFC, aside from all the draws, was the inability of Torrent to find a way to get the best out of promising American winger Jonathan Lewis. Patrick Vieira also failed in that task before Lewis was shipped off to Colorado. Lewis has scored three goals for the Rapids in six games, so he clearly has something to offer.

For whatever reason, it didn’t happen in New York for Lewis, so Reyna turned to the transfer market to acquire Scottish winger Gary Mackay-Steven from SPL side Aberdeen to provide depth on the wing.

With 14 games remaining New York has a lot going for it – if they make good use of those games in hand. This is a well-balanced team, versatile and deep, a side that looks good enough to battle for the top playoff position in the East.

How oddsmakers view NYCFC

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Very favorable.

NYCFC is a clear second favorite to win the MLS Cup. Priced at +600, only LAFC (+200) has better odds. The gap between NYCFC and third favorite Atlanta United (+1100) is considerable.

Look for NYCFC to not just challenge for the Eastern Conference honors, but for the MLS Cup as well.

Late Winner and NYCFC Has Matters Well “In Hand”

Peter Nolan July 21, 2019

NYCFC picked up three valuable points with a 2-1 win in Colorado against the Rapids on Saturday.

The match featured a half-hour weather delay; a sixth-minute lead for the Rapids on a goal scored by 16 year-old homegrown prospect Sebastian Anderson which was set up by Jonathan Lewis, who was traded by NYC after the team gave up on him; then a red card to Anderson in the 33rd minute; then a Tim Howard injury; and finally and a late New York winner from substitute Alexandru Mitrita, a goal that Colorado coach Conor Casey loudly proclaimed offside following the game.

Pheew!

When the smoke cleared from that incident-filled evening, New York City Football Club had climbed into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

NYCFC well-positioned for playoff run

NYCFC has played just 18 games, four games less than playoff contenders Toronto FC and five less than first-place Philadelphia Union. New York had games in hand over all of the teams that it trailed in the Eastern Conference standings.

Ah, but the thing about games in hand is, well – you had better win those “extra” games.

Recovering from a skid

NYCFC was also coming off a two-game losing streak, significant given that Dome Torrent’s men have lost just three games all season. However, the visitors never panicked after conceding that early goal, quickly recovering to dominate the possession, nearly 78%, and shots, 29-7.

New York was already well on the way to compiling those impressive numbers when referee Chris Penso confidently produced a straight red card, prematurely ending an up and down evening for Anderson, the California teen.

With Anderson now on the line and Rapids leading scorer Kei Kamara unavailable, the Raps were always going to struggle to apply any pressure to Sean Johnson’s net. Things did not improve for Casey when he had to pull his goalkeeper, Tim Howard, before the halftime break.

Howard had been excellent to that point. The U.S. legend could do little to prevent Heber abrilliant 40th-minute control and strike from a wonderful chipped pass by MLS assist leader (13) Maxi Moralez.

With the return from injury of James Sands, still wearing a cast to protect his broken right arm, Torrent sent his side out with the 18-year-old Sands at the center of a three back set. Sands was fine and the formation held up well, save for the Colorado goal, which came when Sebastian Ibeagha was beaten by Lewis to tee up young Andersen.

Ibeagha was in the team for the suspended Maxime Chanot, and his return alongside Sands and Alex Callens will be welcomed by Torrent.

Colorado has improved since Conor Casey was named interim boss when Anthony Hudson was let go on May 1. However, the gulf in class between the two teams on Friday night was clear even as Casey’s Rapids battled for a hoped for draw.

It was not to be with New York’s depth coming into play when Torrent sprung Alexandru Mitrita off the bench, and back from injury, to score the New York winner.

Casey had to be disappointed that his 10-man side were unable to escape with a point, moreso considering his view that the game-winner should not have counted.

“I saw a long ball with a player offsides,” Casey said in his postgame remarks. “Lalas (Abubakar) has to deal with a header and then the ball falls to somebody else and no offside is called.”

It looked as if Casey had a point but the call did not go his way and New York headed home with three valuable points and one game in hand taken care of.

Next Up for NYCFC

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Next up for New York – Friday, July 26 vs. Sporting Kansas City – 7:30 PM ET

NYCFC -143Draw +275Sporting KC +375

Analyzing Each of the Eastern Conference’s Best Teams

Avatar July 19, 2019

At this stage of the MLS season, we can confidently place a group of five teams at the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy:

Other playoff contenders — notably the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Orlando City SC and the New England Revolution — will hang around, but the existing group of five will be tough to challenge.

To handicap the race, let’s take a look at each of the East elites, including what they do well and poorly and how they’ve played in recent weeks.

D.C. United

DCU sit second in the Eastern Conference, barely a nick ahead of a threatening group of three — Atlanta, NYRB, and NYCFC. D.C. are in danger are falling further behind.

Even as they stick around in the upper tier in the conference, it grows harder and harder to proclaim them as legitimate contenders. They’ve won just twice in their last 10 games.

Luciano Acosta is suspended currently for a red card, and has generally taken a step back from last season’s ascent to stardom. They haven’t scored at the rate most expected despite Wayne Rooney’s continued excellence.

By the time Acosta is transferred elsewhere (which seems like an inevitability, whether this window or next), D.C. will be severely missing attacking creativity. In fact, they’ve been missing attacking creativity even with Acosta in the lineup. D.C. rank in the lower tiers of shots per game and xG per game. They lack difference-makers — players who can find the ball and pick out passes that others don’t see. 

Acosta has been a difference-maker in the past, but this season his productivity has waned. DCU don’t have other players who can both fill in when Acosta’s production dips and, most importantly, help boost the Argentine. They need a secondary creator.

Lucas Rodriguez is a dribbler, but he’s not a passer or an adept connector. Paul Arriola is a workhorse. The deeper midfielders have yet to find ways to impact further up the field the way players like Cristian Roldan in Seattle have.

D.C. have to surround Rodriguez and Arriola with players who can move the ball and keep D.C.’s attack from faltering. Rodriguez, while electric on the ball, has an xGChain/96 figure of 0.96, lower than that of Gyasi Zardes. Arriola is a high-caliber player, but similarly lacks the ability to find difference-making passes. 

Above all else, D.C. need a shake-up. They’ve clearly stagnated. We’ll see what this transfer window brings.

NYCFC

NYC lost twice in MLS in the last couple of weeks, to the Portland Timbers and the Red Bulls. In between those, they sandwiched a penalty-kick defeat in the US Open Cup quarterfinals against Orlando City.

Pigeons fans need not worry too much about these recent setbacks. The Red Bulls loss had a fluky feel to it — NYRB scored their goals on a penalty-kick and a bizarre, controversial referee mismanagement situation. NYC had dominated much of the New York Derby. They had their chances against Portland, losing 1-0 despite dominating the xG battle. Penalty shootouts are basically coin tosses.

In general, City look like one of the league’s better teams, and hold games in hand on most of their Eastern Conference rivals. Their attack is deep. Younger options have emerged in midfield alongside Alex Ring; most notably, Keaton Parks has become an important starter, and James Sands will continue to have a role. Maxi Moralez is a legitimate MVP candidate. 

Dome Torrent has his team spreading opponents out, sending the fullbacks forward, and thriving off of diagonal switches in the attacking third. It is an effective formula, but they have to be careful to prevent the well running dry. 

Atlanta United

Have Atlanta adjusted to Frank de Boer’s system? I’m inclined to say that they have, to a certain extent. They’ve worked their way back up to third in the Eastern Conference, and they have started to improve in midfield. Justin Meram has shown flashes of pre-Orlando City Justin Meram.

But when they win, defending and Josef Martinez make the difference.

Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba are still injured. With Brek Shea out for the year and Mikey Amrbose battling thigh problems, they don’t have a left back. Pity Martinez has not yet transformed into a world-beating superstar, and it’s hard to see that happening any time soon. They have a ceiling now that they didn’t have in the past.

The five-game win streak they ripped off at the beginning of May appears to have been a product of a weak schedule; they took four of a possible 15 points in the five games prior to Wednesday’s 5-0 demolition of 10-man Houston.

De Boer should roll with the 3-5-2-ish formation he tested against the Dynamo. Julian Gressel is best used as a wingback, and a three-at-the-back is the only way De Boer can fit the center back trio of Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez and Michael Parkhurst together. Pity’s defensive apathy would be most effectively sheltered in a second striker role.

Atlanta will keep trying to find the best version of themselves.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls, contrary to previous NYRB seasons, look set up to succeed in the playoffs instead of the regular season. They took some time to coalesce this year — a process that makes sense, considering the departure of Tyler Adams, injuries on the backline, Champions League congestion, and Kaku’s going off the rails at various times — and now they are motoring along at a reasonable pace.

It’s hard to see them going on a run and challenging for first in the conference, barring some big signing of a winger. Reigning Defender of the Year Aaron Long has been the subject of transfer rumors this summer. If they sell, they make things very difficult for themselves this season.

But aside from Adams’s departure and Bradley Wright-Phillips’s decline to super-sub status, not too much is different about this Red Bulls team from previous iterations. They play a similar style and press the ball well. In the waning BWP years (and first Brian White year!), they’ll want to make a serious run in October.

Philadelphia Union

The current top team, Philly have been better and more consistent than every team in the East except for (arguably) NYCFC. They have the look of a bona fide elite, though the recent injury of Jamiro Monteiro has stunted their recent form.

They may be a bit overrated in some areas. Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie haven’t had seasons to write home about, though Jack Elliott has been very good at center back. Andre Blake is perpetually the most overrated keeper in the league. The signing of journeyman American Andrew Wooten at striker is unlikely to be a serious difference-maker.

In general, though, the Union are legit. Ilsinho is a weapon off the bench that other teams don’t have. Kai Wagner has been one of the league’s best left backs this season. The diamond formation has worked wonders, and continues to produce quality possession. They will face a battle to finish at the top of the conference.

Portland Ends NYCFC Home Streak with 1-0 Win

Peter Nolan July 8, 2019

All good things must end.

On Sunday evening, NYCFC lost 1-0 for the first time at Yankee Stadium this season to a deserving Portland Timbers side.

Torrent proud of team despite final result

The loss is also New York’s first in league play since a 4-0 pasting by Toronto FC way back in March. New York coach Dome Torrent thought that his team deserved better.

“I think the team deserved more. I am very proud of them. It is not easy to play so many games without rest. We are missing some players but is not an excuse, it is a reality, but I am very proud of them. They deserved more. In the first half, we made one mistake and when you make a mistake in soccer it punishes you.”

That mistake came in the 14th minute and resulted in the game’s only goal. Scored by Sebastian Blanco (0:50 in the below video), the goal enough to stop NYCFC’s unbeaten run at 14 games. New York defender Sebastien Ibeagha was the culprit when he failed to clear Diego Valeri’s free-kick, instead directing the ball into Blanco’s path, inadvertently setting up Portland’s goal.

Torrent handed the start to Ibeagha because his squad is shorthanded at the moment. NYCFC is missing eight first-teamers, including center backs Alex Callens, part of the Peru team that lost the Copa America final to Brazil on Sunday, and James Sands, who had been a regular starter before fracturing his arm.

Timbers’ Savarese may love New York, but keeps focus on Portland’s performance

Portland coach Giovanni Savarese has strong ties to New York and the local soccer scene since leaving his native Venezuela for Long Island University Brooklyn, through the New York amateur and semi-pro leagues, on to the MLS MetroStars, and finally to his coaching career with the New York Cosmos.

But after the match, the coach wanted to keep the focus on his team.

“It was important to get these three points to continue to climb in the table. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. This team is a team that can bring you some difficulty and challenges. They are a good team and that’s why they had only lost one match before today.”

Savarese added, “ We expected a tough match. Very proud of the sacrifice of the players the way they battled united, how we found the goal, how we created some chances, but we also had to deal with a lot. They moved the ball well, New York City, and they were looking for spaces. We made sure we worked as a unit and we were able to get a very important result for us, but it wasn’t easy.”

That sacrifice that Savarese spoke of included the team defense that frustrated a New York side that seemed bereft of ideas once it got in sight of the Portland goal. Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark had something to do with New York’s frustration too.

When NYCFC did find a way through the Portland defense Clark was there to earn the shutout despite New York’s 15 to10 shot advantage, that included five shots on target to just two by Portland on Brad Stuver in the home goal.

With New York pressing desperately to preserve its perfect home mark, Clark had to be alert virtually until the final whistle, tipping an Ibeagha header over the crossbar in the 94th minute to preserve Portland’s victory and the shutout.

Sunday’s win brings ninth place Portland within three points of eighth-place Real Salt Lake and four points back of seventh-place Houston and a playoff spot.

NYCFC remains in fifth place.

Up next for NYCFC

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NYCFC Next Games:

Wednesday, July 10th – US Open Cup @ Orlando City

Sunday, July 14th – MLS regular season @ New York Red Bulls

NYRB +104Draw +260NYCFC +240

The Bronx is Up and Harrison is Down as New York’s MLS Teams Head into the Holiday

Peter Nolan July 5, 2019

It was a day of contrasts for New York’s MLS sides on Wednesday.

The 3-0 thumping New York City FC put on Seattle in front of a pre-holiday crowd at Yankee Stadium was impressive. However, the New York Red Bulls traveled all the way to Texas only to endure a 4-0 hammering at the hands of the Dynamo.

With these results, the boys in blue climb above the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings into fifth place. The MLS originals slip to sixth.

Red Bulls missing defenders disappoint in Houston

The Red Bulls had fullback Michael Murillo back in the lineup on his return from representing Panama in the Gold Cup. However, they were without center back Aaron Long, who was in action in the U.S. semifinal win over Jamaica on Wednesday night. They were also without Kemar Lawrence, who lined out against Long for the Reggae Boyz in Nashville.

Additionally, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas was missing his other regular center back with Tim Parker through injury forcing 5’7” (maybe) Connor Lade to play center back alongside Amro Tarek versus Houston.

Armas also sat star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench, only using his recovering goal scorer for 17 minutes. Instead, Armas turned to youngsters Brian White and Tom Barlow, neither of whom were able to beat Joe Willis in the Dynamo net.

It wasn’t a great night for the revamped Red Bulls backline with of Armas’ center backs getting beaten for a goal apiece and Murillo ending the match in the locker room after earning a late red card for a second yellow card offense.

New York had particular trouble with Houston speedster Alberth Elis, who assisted on Mauro Manotas’ opening goal before striking for a late brace.

The Red Bulls will be looking to get back into the win column when they travel to Atlanta to face the Five Stripes on Sunday, July 7th before hosting rivals NYCFC seven days later.

NYCFC impressive in pre-Fourth blowout

It was a happier pre – Fourth for the blue half of New York, with NYCFC running out 3-0 winners on a steamy night in the Bronx behind a three-goal second half.

In the midst of a three game winning streak, and with one more match, Sunday, July 7th vs Portland, remaining on a four-game homestand, New York remained unbeaten at home on the season, improving to 9w-0L-5D.

Wednesday night’s loss is the third in four games for the slumping Sounders. Seattle will welcome the return of Nicolas Lodeiro for its next match on Saturday in Columbus. The star playmaker was late returning from Copa America action with Uruguay. Panamanian defender Roman Torres was available to coach Bran Setzer but did not get the call. Howver, Xavier Arrenga, Seattle’s new DP, made his debut at center back after wrapping up Copa duty with Ecuador.

With the USMNT having advanced to Sunday’s Gold Cup Final, Schmetzer will have to make do without Jordan Morris and Christian Roldan for another few days.

Neither side troubled the scoreboard operator in a somewhat disjointed opening 45 minutes in the Bronx but the home team finally got untracked, with a little bit of luck, in the second half. Maxi Moralez opened New Yorks account, and that was no surprise, given that Moralez has found the net in three of his last four games while notching either a goal or an assist in seven consecutive matches.

On Wednesday night, Moralez goal had a touch of luck to it, eluding Stefan Frei after taking a deflection off of a Seattle defender. Fortun played a role in NYC’s second goal as a shot from Vincente Castellanos was directed to the net by Jesus Medina for Medina’s first goal of the season but no such claims can be made concerning the final NY tally of the night, laser off the left boot of Ebenezer Ofori that beat Frei from about 242nd Street.

With the victory, New York continues to have just one mark in the L as it concludes its four-game homestand on Sunday versus Portland ahead of A New York Derby showdown with the Red Bulls on Sunday, July 14th at Red Bull Arena.

Seattle will look to Lodeio to change its luck when they travel to Columbus to face the Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.

NYCFC Top First Place Philadelphia in Yankee Stadium Slugfest

Peter Nolan June 30, 2019

Just a couple of hours after their landlords, the NY Yankees, engaged in a slugfest with the Boston Red Sox 3,000 miles away in London, New York City FC outscored the Philadelphia Union for a 4-2  victory at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.

And for all the complaints about playing soccer in the Big Ballyard in the Bronx, Dome Torrent’s men remain unbeaten at home in 2019. They are also undefeated in their last 11 matches league games.

Catellanos leads makeshift roster to win

In the first MLS action for NYC since a 5-2 home win over Cincinnatti on June 6, Vincent Catellanos was the hero, earning two penalty kicks, both of which were converted by Maxi Morales. Catellanos then scored two goals of his own from open play.

With NYCFC missing seven players, four injured and three on international duty, Casellanos’ contribution was badly needed, especially with leading goal scorer Heber out injured.

With his team shorthanded, coach Torrent certainly appreciated the contribution from Castellanos and some of his other bench players, saying,”“you know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches.”

Torrent noted his team’s depth, adding, “I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play. And his opportunities are the same as Keaton (Parks). Keaton played the game really well again and it’s good news for us. And I don’t have doubts about my players, and I say many times to them, they have to be ready to play when I decide to play with them.”

New York had to overcome an early deficit on Saturday after Philadelphia took an early lead on a seventh minute goal from FaFa Picault, whose trap, turn, and shot in front of the New York goal was beautifully executed.

The home team got back on level terms when Castellanos drew the first of New York’s penalty kicks. Duly converted by Moralez for a 23rd minute equalizer.

In year’s past Philadelphia might have been expected to fold up its tents after coughing up an early lead but there is something a bit different about coach Jim Curtin’s crew this season, and within seven minutes Kacper Przybylko had put the Union back in front, set up by Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho.

That sort of bounce back attitude has the surprising Union sitting atop the MLS Eastern Conference. However, with four games in hand and its next two games at home, don’t sleep on NYCFC.

A flashpoint came in the 55th minute when Castellanos drew a second penalty kick after contact with the Union’s Alejandro Bedoya. Philadelphia hotly disputed the call at the time and former USMNT midfielder Bedoya likely earned imself a fine from the Commissioner’s Officewith his postgame comments, delivered, naturally via twitter.

Bedoya’s coach Jim Curtin had his captain’s back, even if his language was somewhat more diplomatic. “Castellanos was good at maybe embellishing a little bit and making it look worse than it was. On that play (Castellanos) doesn’t even see Ale coming. In my mind simple as I can put it: Ale is entitled to that ball just as much as Castellanos is. He puts his body in between the two, wins the ball. It looks like a hard contact but this is a contact game. I think the ref got that one wrong.”

Wrong or right, and for what it is worth, I thought the ref was on the money, Moralez buried his second pk of the match and we were level once again.

From there Castellanos the provider turned finisher, nothing the final two goals of the match to secure the three points for New York City FC.

MLS Title Odds: Who Will Win the 2019 MLS Cup? (UPDATED)

High Press 10 June 10, 2019

Updated: June 10th, 2019

With the MLS on a Gold Cup sabbatical, now is a good time to re-examine 2019 MLS Cup futures.

Despite a recent resurgence, reigning champs Atlanta United have fallen from pre-season favorites of +500 to +900. Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner for best regular-season record, New York Red Bulls, dropped even further, going from +550 to +1600.

LAFC, who started the year at +700, are no prohibitive favorites at +200. They’re followed by Zlatan-led LA Galaxy (+750), the aforementioned ATL UTD, and NYCFC (+900). Eastern conference table-toppers Philadelphia Union have climbed from a pre-season +3300 to +1600.

The biggest risers from pre-season are San Jose. They’ve climbed from the cellar (+25000) to a respectable +6000.

See the below table for full 2019 MLS Cup futures. Also view MLS Cup odds at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ and DraftKings Sportsbook.

(Odds as of June 10th, 2019)

LAFC +200  LA Galaxy – +750 Atlanta United +900 NYCFC +900
DC United +1400  New York Red Bulls +1600 Seattle Sounders +1600  Philadelphia Union +1600 
Montreal Impact +1600 Columbus Crew +2400  Houston Dynamo +2400 FC Dallas +3100 
Sporting KC +3100 Toronto FC +3100 Portland Timbers +3400 Minnesota United +5000  
Orlando City +5000  San Jose Earthquakes +6000 Chicago Fire +9500 Real Salt Lake +9500
Vancouver Whitecaps +11000 Colorado Rapids +12000 New England Revolution +12000 FC Cincinnati +20000

Fit To Be Tied: NYCFC Draw at Columbus for 8th Tie of 2019

Peter Nolan June 2, 2019

Sometimes a draw feels like a loss, on other occasions the old phrase, “a tie is like kissing your sister,” is more apt. For New York City Football Club Sunday night’s 2-2 deadlock at Columbus felt more positive than that.

Given how the 90 minutes unfurled–with NYCFC trailing early, equalizing, and trailing again before leveling via a Valentin Castellanos golazo–the New Yorkers had to consider the club’s league-leading eighth draw of the season almost as good as a victory.

And they did. Well, mostly.

“Our intentions are to win the game,” coach Dome Torrent said in remarks released by the club. Noting that his team will play its next four matches in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, Torrent, added, “it’s not easy to get points here (Columbus’ Mapfre Stadium) and okay, we are not very, very happy, but it’s not bad.”

Goalscoring hero Castellanos was perhaps understandably less conflicted than his coach in assessing the result, saying, “it was difficult, we knew they played well with the ball, but it’s fine, we came out with a tie that felt like a victory. Playing not so well in the first half and going on to tie the game is important.”

Inspired Crew start strong

New York was facing an emotional Columbus Crew side that was saying goodbye to U.S international goalkeeper and team leader Zack Steffen, who was playing his final game in for the Ohians before departing for Manchester City, interestingly NYCFC’s parent club.

Columbus, playing without talisman Pipa Higuain, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, got off to a flying start, putting Sean Johnson under pressure early.

First, the 6’4” NYCFC keeper went full stretch to parry David Guzman’s sixth-minute effort, then Pedro Santos, auditioning to fill Higuain’s position, blasted just high of the NYC crossbar two minutes later.

New York responded well to the home sides early pressure with James Sands putting the disappointment at his U20 World Cup snub aside to lead a solid NYCFC defense.

Sands, however, could do nothing to prevent an error by his more experienced defense partner, Alexander Callens, who gifted Columbus with a penalty for his rough and reckless tackle on the influential Santos in the game’s 25th minute.

It was a tough ending to an exciting week for the New York defender, who days ago was named to his native Peru’s Copa America final roster.

Higuain normally handles PK duty for the Crew but U.S. international Gyasi Zardes stepped up in his stead and confidently blasted an unstoppable shot past Johnson to give Columbus a 1-0 lead that would stand up until halftime.

Torrent’s adjustment pays off

Trailing by a goal, Torrent rolled the dice, removing defender Ben Sweat before the end of the half for attacker Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Torrent’s move paid dividends in the 56th minute when Tajouri-Shradi made a strong run at the Crew defense before his centering pass found Maxi Moralez, whose accidental one-touch pass found Heber in prime goal scoring position and the Brazilian did not miss.

The NYCFC lead did not last long. Recently acquired David Accam released Pedro Santos behind the NYC defense and Pipa’s would be replacement made no mistake to reclaim the lead for the Crew. But Columbus, in the midst of eight losses in nine matches, could not seal the deal.

New York’s equalizer came in the 75th minute and it was a stunner. NYCFC captain Alex Ring intercepted near midfield and fed second-half substitute, Castellanos. The 20-year-old Venezuelan took a touch and the let rip from at least 30 yards and Steffen never had a chance (go to 3:00 mark in video, it’s a stunner).

The 2-2 score stood up with New York’s record moving to four wins, just one loss, and eight draws. It is an odd record that lands the New Yorkers in sixth place, with 20 points, seven points behind first-place DC United, while the Crew remains below the playoff line in 10th place just three points back of NYCFC.

High Press Pod Ep 7: Philadelphia Union, MLS Transfers, NYCFC & NYRB Rising

Chops May 17, 2019

The latest soccer podcast deep dives into the MLS.

Listen to “High Press Pod Ep 07 – MLS Extravaganza” on Spreaker.
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