New York City March on to Atlanta
New York City is finally healthy and the results are showing. After a stretch of only one win in nine games to end the season, NYCFC dispatched the Philadelphia Union in back to back 3-1 victories. NYCFC have not scored double digits in back to back games since May and now they must hope to do it again against Atlanta in the conference semi finals on Sunday.
Sunday is big for NYCFC. The team needs to score and sore often as they will travel to Atlanta on Nov 11 for the second game in the home and away match up. NYCFC must learn from their mistakes and past failures. They cannot afford to start flat footed. Columbus made them pay in the playoffs last year when they trounced NYCFC in Columbus in the first game and created a deficit too hard to overcome for NYCFC at home. They need a good showing at home to build up a buffer and put the pressure on Atlanta for the second game. It won’t be easy.
Atlanta have arguably the most potent offense in the league and the golden boot winner at the point. Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron are a deadly combination of skill and style and will test a sometimes unstable NYCFC back line. But Atlanta also suffers from a brittle defense. They can be put to task as evidence by their recent 4-1 loss to Toronto. United can be scored upon and NYCFC must do that often. This is not a one and done like against Philadelphia. This is a series and NYCFC must build up a cushion.
The good news for City is that they finally have all the players at full strength. The team’s top two goal scorers are back to form. David Villa missed eleven games this year. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi missed eight. Jo Inge Berget, Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez and Maxime Chanot all missed significant time due to injury. Perhaps the biggest addition back to the starting eleven is Yangel Hererra. Hererra has shown in the past two game how vanuable he is to the club. His skill and physicality in the midfield combine perfectly with Alexander Ring and Moralez. He serves as a counter balance for Ring and can be an enforcer in the center of the pitch. With Ring and Hererra on the prowl it will be much harder for Martinez and Almiron to find the passes and space needed to create havoc.
NYCFC will most likely start with the same eleven they put on the pitch on Halloween. Tajouri-Shradi proved his value in that game with an amazing one touch stunner to put NYCFC ahead for good in the first half. He will look to repeat that performance and can be deadly in the attack. He is the most efficient goal scorer on the team scoring twelve goals on only seventeen shots for the season. He and Villa will test Atlanta and Brad Guzan often if possible.
Aside from the top two goal scorers Dome Torrent finally has very potent options and plenty of them on the bench. Medina, Berget, Taty Castellanos, and Ronald Matarrita all could fill out the top third of the attack with Villa and Shradi and all have proven deadly in past games. Finally having a full healthy team is key for NYCFC.
Atlanta and NYC have met twice in the regular season. Back in April the teams played an action packed slug-fest to a 2-2 draw and then met again less than a month later at Yankee stadium for a 1-1 tie. There will be no draw in this home and away series and NYCFC must use their home field advantage to take control this Sunday. The weather should be beautiful and the game should be as well. NYCFC fans should come out and enjoy the show. With these two teams playing and everything on the line, it promises to be a good one.