Fire-New York City FC Preview
It continues to be home away from home for New York City FC, who look for back-to-back regular-season wins for the first time Saturday night when they host the Chicago Fire.
Because of the alterations to the New York Yankees schedule as a result of COVID-19, NYCFC has set up camp in the home of their Hudson River rivals, the New York Red Bulls. After a 1-0 derby loss there Aug. 21, the Bronx Blues (2-5-0) bounced back Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over Columbus.
Alexander Ring's goal just before the hour separated the sides while Sean Johnson made three saves for the clean sheet, most notably in the 82nd minute on a shot by Pedro Santos. NYCFC also watched two Crew goals get chalked off for offsides.
"I think it was a really big win for us. We were in a position where we needed points," Johnson said post-match. I think the focus was on us and what we needed to do, not so much worried about where Columbus was in the table.
"It was really important stick to the things that have made us successful in the past. We dug deep, I think there was a real fight and a real commitment to playing. I think you can see it all around the pitch. Nobody was scared, nobody backed down and we were always on the front foot."
There is still some getting used to in terms of field dimensions for New York City FC, with Red Bull arena having a wider pitch than Yankee Stadium. What would help to that end is playmaker Maxi Moralez and fellow midfieder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi being available after both missed out Tuesday night with calf and hamstring injuries, respectively.
NYCFC have struggled to find their footing offensively, with three of their seven goals in all competitions coming in their round of 16 win over Toronto FC at the MLS Is Back tournament.
The Fire (2-4-1) take to the road after a triumphant return to Soldier Field on Tuesday with a 3-0 romp past Cincinnati FC. Playing in the city of Chicago proper for the first time since 2006, Fabian Herbers and Alvaro Medran struck in the opening 10 minutes, and Ignacio Aliseda added a third in the second half as the Fire ended a 278-minute goalless drought and had a season-best seven shots on target.
"We were struggling in the past games to really be clinical in front of goal," Herbers told the Fire's official website. "We just didn't get our chances and were losing some games even though we had the chances to win those games, actually, or to at least get a tie out of those games. Today, we showed that when we are clinical in front of the goal, that we can really dominate teams and be a good team and win games."
Medran appears to be forming a fast partnership with Gaston Gimenez, who are operate as the top and bottom tips of the midfield diamond in Raphael Wicky's 4-1-2-1-2 alignment.
"We like to keep possession, so being able to speak the same language helps a lot," Medran told the league's official website. "We also are players that need games to get going, get the rhythm going. And I think that with the passage of time, we'll be able to hit our rhythm and keep getting better and playing better soccer."
NYCFC took four of six points from the two meetings last year, and the teams played to a 1-1 draw in the most recent match as C.J. Sapong and Alexandru Mitrita traded first-half goas. A change of venue may be a positive for the Fire, who had lost four straight at Yankee Stadium after getting points from draws in the first two matches there.
Updated August 28, 2020