To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s match against New York City FC, we spoke with Hudson River Blue’s Jake Gofman to get his take on how NYCFC has played since the last matchup against Atlanta, their relentless attack, and expectations for the rest of the season.
DSS: How's NYCFC been doing since their last match against Atlanta earlier in the month?
HRB: New York has played three matches since that home win against Atlanta, and the results have been mixed, with the lone poor result in the group being of NYC FC's own doing.
Let's start with that result, which is a 2-1 defeat to lowly RSL in Utah. This was a classic case of young coach tinkering ahead of a midweek match on short rest: Patty Vieira went a little rogue and made two back line subs and four midfield/attacking subs to rest his main players. Only issue is he rested too many players, and New York had no fluidity and dropped points where it could and should have gained some ground.
The Team also won and drew road matches since that Atlanta win and those we'd file under the "great results" tab. The draw in Dallas came when Dallas still hadn't lost a match, so going into their house, holding our own, and getting a point was a good look.
NYC FC also exercised some demons this past weekend against Orlando, beating their expansion rivals 3-0 in their new arena. New York was firing on all cylinders that night and will be looking to build on that result against ATL.
DSS: This is a matchup of the two highest scoring clubs in the East. On the very few occasions NYCFC's attack has been slowed down this season, what seems to give them trouble?
HRB: NYC FC has only been held scoreless once this season, and that was game 1 of the MLS calendar, so scoring has never been too much of a problem for the team. The team who did it to us was Orlando, and they had a great game plan that day others have looked to emulate with varying success.
To stop or slow down New York you have to first have the personnel. Tactics and strategy are all well and good, but if the players executing that strategy don't have the quality, then it all becomes mute. A strong CB pairing, one that communicates effectively and tracks runs efficiently, is a great place to start.
Tactically, the key is to limit the supply to David Villa specifically, but also Jack Harrison and Rodney Wallace. In the 4-3-3 we play, it's essential that Alexander Ring and Maxi Moralez find Villa and others in pockets of space up the field. If New York's midfielders find themselves pinned back and there's a yardage gap between our front line and midfield, the attack becomes stagnant and NYC settles for long balls.
DSS: What are your predictions on how NYCFC finishes the season? MLS Champions?
HRB: All throughout last season, NYC was hovering, like this season, around the 2-4 place in the Eastern Conference; however, if you asked me about winning it all, I would have laughed you off. Last year it was "can we score more than them" strategy, which is a fun, but less than ideal philosophy to live by, especially when you get into the Playoffs.
This season, we can actually defend a little, and our scoring output is more consistent and predictable than it was at times last year. David Villa is still in MVP form, our midfield has taken a step forward with the addition of Ring and Moralez, and Jack Harrison is growing into a potential All-Star.
All that said, will we be Champions? Probably not. There are 22 teams gunning for the same goal, and even if we are among the top 4-5, there's so much luck and chance involved in actually winning that it's hard to predict. I think Conference Finals is a good goal, and if we make it to the Cup, well then, who knows what will happen?