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The Daily Dirt, October 1: Empire State of Mind

Is NYCFC one of the contenders for MLS Cup?

MLS: New York City FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Could New York City FC be for real?

Their win last night, sparked by two David Villa goals, has them in the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Citizens (is that we’re going to go with as a nickname for them?) are also only two points behind FC Dallas for the Supporters’ Shield.

Their record away from home is a strong factor to be considered when looking at the playoffs. NYCFC has no fear playing away from Yankee Stadium, they could even relish the opportunity to play on wider fields. They have won just as many games on the road in 2016 as at home to have the best away mark in MLS.

The age of their leading goalscorers does raise a question. David Villa at 34-years-old is not showing signs of slowing down. His two goals last night give him 21 for the season. Frank Lampard, while often injured, has added 12 goals in 18 games. He will be back for the playoff run after missing time currently with a calf strain.

The rest of the goals are spread out amongst the squad. Tommy McNamara provides creativity and unpredictability out wide. Khiry Shelton adds speed. Steven Mendoza gets as many scoring chances as anyone other than Villa. Jack Harrison brings 1v1 dribbling and a mix of scoring and creating from the flank. These guys can’t be discounted when looking at NYCFC’s chances going forward. They help the Citizens place at the top of MLS in goals scored.

It’s the improved defense though that can take many of the plaudits for the NYCFC turnaround. After the 7-0 debacle against the Red Bulls, things have started to tighten up. Shutouts have never been expected out of this group, but they’re starting to happen occasionally. The home 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy stands out, as well as the 2-0 win last night. They’re starting to figure out what works for them. The key seems to be a defensive midfield shielding their back four, and Federico Bravo and Andoni Iraola have combined to do that. They will have to show up in a big way in the playoffs.

As the margins get slimmer in the playoffs, the veterans NYCFC has all over their roster will be counted upon to lead this team. That’s not just the Designated Player trio of Villa, Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo. It’s Iraola, Federic Brillant, Jason Hernandez, and Josh Saunders.

Patrick Vieira has learned lessons each week this year. We’ll see if he’s been learning fast enough to challenge for MLS Cup, the playoffs start soon.


Domestic

NYCFC takes control of the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 win in Houston (MLS)

Washington Spirit advance to NWSL Final with extra time win over Chicago (Excelle Sports)

Could Dallas be in the mix for Bastian Schweinsteiger? (Goal)

Dominic Kinnear expected back in San Jose for 2017 (ESPN)


International

Could Sam Allardyce be facing a ban? (BBC)

Chelsea’s defensive woes are dragging the team down (We Ain’t Got No History)


Local

Edwin Figueroa of Atlanta United U18’s called into Brad Friedel’s U.S. U19 squad (Dirty South Soccer)

Georgia lost in a SEC women’s match 2-1 to #12 Arkansas.

Coastal Carolina defeated Georgia Southern’s women’s team 1-0.

Georgia State’s women earn a 0-0 draw with Troy.