New England Soccer Today

First Look: #NYCvNE


On Sunday, the Revolution will head to Yankee Stadium for their first encounter with expansion side New York City FC, which will be making its home debut in front of over 30,000 fans.

The hosts will be searching for their very first MLS win after drawing 1-1 to Orlando City last week while the Revolution will look to bounce back from last week’s humbling 3-0 defeat to the Sounders.

In order to get a feel for what to expect, NEST‘s Brian O’Connell caught up with Prost Amerika’s Anna Ferkingstad to discuss the matchup.

Brian: How do you think Sunday’s debut went for NYCFC, and what stood out the most to you about the way the team played?

Anna: Sunday’s debut had its success and failures. NYC FC struggled against Orlando’s strong and fast offense but we also saw a glimpse of the potential that lies with midfielder Mix Diskerud and rookie Khiry Shelton. Looking forward, Jason Kreis’ side has a lot of room to grow on defense. Gaps between center backs Jason Hernandez and Chris Wingert allowed Orlando to hold the most potent of the offensive chances during the first half.

What stood out the most was Villa’s difficulty to remain involved in the game and connect with the midfield. The entire NYC FC side found itself tucking centrally and clogging the attacking third. It was Diskerud’s outstanding and skillful shot in the later minutes of the game that changed the momentum for the team. The youngster Khiry Shelton also had an outstanding game, making an impact the moment he entered as a substitute. He brought energy and speed to an NYC FC offense that was struggling to finish.

Brian: I’m glad you brought up David Villa, as I also noticed that he seemed to get lost in the action. What will Jason Kreis need to do to try to get him more involved this week?

Anna: The key change will need to come in the midfield. Ned Grabavoy and Medhi Ballouchy need to look for more attacking runs down the wings to help create space and relieve pressure. Villa’s strengths lie in his vision and ability to take on defenders but this does him no good when he’s crowded and tucking to close to the midfield line. Villa is a legend because he can score. He grabbed 59 goals while playing for the Spanish World Cup team, a record for the country. Feeding him balls and chances close to net could change the whole outcome of a game.

New England’s match last weekend against the Seattle Sounders demonstrated that they share similar defensive problems to NYC FC. Thus, Villa’s presence in this Sunday’s game becomes that much more important. Kreis will ask his team to try and capitalize on the lack of cohesion between the Revolution’s center backs Andrew Farrell and Jose Gonclaves.

Speaking of the duo, it was impossible to overlook their lack of cohesion as New England fell 3-0 to the Seattle Sounders last weekend. It appeared as if AJ Soares’ departure and the resulting new backline had a hard time containing the Seattle duo Martins and Dempsey. How do you think the Revolution will try and fix this before facing NYC FC in their home opener? Who do you think will be the key players for the Revolution as the face the crowd at Yankee Stadium?

Brian: Jay Heaps has preached patience with the Goncalves-Farrell CB partnership, so I don’t think he’ll make any changes there. That said, left back Chris Tierney told me yesterday that the team gambled defensively early on to get an early jump on Seattle – a plan that obviously backfired. So in light of that, I think you’ll see the Revs adopt a more conservative approach defensively to avoid falling into an early deficit. We’ll probably see central midfielder Andy Dorman stay back more often to clog the middle.

Anna: I agree with you, I think a conservative defense approach and an overloaded Revolution offense could spell trouble for Kreis and NYC FC. You mentioned Andy Dorman’s role in the midfield. With the pressure and the hype surrounding this game, I think the game is likely to be won in the center of the park. Do you agree?

Brian: Possibly, though I think it’ll be up to Juan Agudelo to step up for the Revs, especially with Jermaine Jones and, quite likely, Teal Bunbury both out. Lee Nguyen could see the field after missing all of preseason and last week, but it’s uncertain as to whether he’s ready to start yet. So I think it’ll be up to Agudelo – as well as Kelyn Rowe, and Diego Fagundez – to get the offense in gear. Defensively, Farrell and Goncalves must do better this week, lest they watch another squad take control and not let go.

Anna: Seems I was a bit eager on that question. Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen were such key played for New England last year during the post season, that makes sense. Returning to the question of the midfield, you just mentioned some of the Revolution’s key center players – Rowe and Fagundez. So, what do you think? A game won in the midfield or will it come down to something else?

Brian: After last week’s debacle, I think it’ll come down to defense. I think the Revs learned quickly last week that if they can’t tighten it up in the rear, they’re inviting trouble, especially without Jones and Bunbury to steer the attack. So the key for the Revs is taking care of business in the back. They just have to be better this week. Tierney said the key will be keeping taking a defensive stand, and with a little luck, the Revs can maybe squeak out a goal late. So I think the Revs success comes down to how they perform against the likes of David Villa, Diskerud, and Adam Nemec.

One thing I wanted to ask you before we get to predictions is this: what do you make of all this controversy about the Yankees complaining about NYCFC tearing up the field?

Anna: It’s all unfortunate. By choosing Yankee Stadium as the venue for this season, MLS and NYC FC’s front office set themselves up for controversy and disaster from the beginning. One major testament to the role of the MLS in the United States is the dual-sport stadium tradition. But I mean at least a football field is the same shape as a soccer field, right? It will be intriguing to see how the layout and structure of a baseball stadium impacts the play and atmosphere this weekend.

In the end, I think the conflict is just adding to the media frenzy that has already surrounded NYC FC’s chaotic start. It is highly possible that the switching of fields could impact both NYC FC and the Yankees but there is no way to know until the season progresses. I like to think that this has all been taken into account, but with this league you never know.

Brian: Truer words have never been spoken! But onto more pressing matters, like predictions. How do you think this match will shake out?

Anna: This is the first time that NYC FC fans have seen their team play at home, so it will be a charged atmosphere. I predict an aggressive game building of this energy and with lots of shots. I am torn on the score but I would say 2-1 in favor of NYC FC. A close game but the home field advantage will be crucial. What do you think?

Brian: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the fans embrace their club for the first time, so I think that charged atmosphere will inspire and motivate the home side. And I think the Revs are well aware of that, so I’m expecting them to bunker in a bit more this week, clog the lanes and play for the clean sheet. That said, I think it’ll end 1-0 in favor of NYC FC.

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