On Wednesday, August 22nd a shorthanded NYCFC side will return home to the Bronx for their most important game of the season thus far, the final regular season installment of the Hudson River Derby. With City four points behind Atlanta and a lone point behind our cross-river rivals, nothing short of all three points are necessary to remain in the elite company of MLS.
NYCFC’s injury report headed into the Derby is full. Alexander Callens and Jesus Medina will miss the match due to injuries sustained on Saturday night. Valentin ‘Taty’ Castellanos has been dealing with a quad injury and will not be available for selection, alongside Ronald Matarrita, who picked up a red card on Saturday. City’s depth will be tested, and hopefully the youngsters can make the 18.
With this in mind, I expect Jo Inge Berget, David Villa, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to start in the front three. David Villa will almost certainly be on a minutes restriction post-injury, but I expect him to make an serious impact on the match, even if only for 45-60 minutes. The midfield should remain intact, while the back four is practically set with Ben Sweat, Sebastien Ibeagha, Maxime Chanot, and Anton Tinnerholm. The bench should finally feature Jonathan Lewis, who has not made the eighteen in two consecutive matches.
Although City are 2-1-2 in their last five, they have arguably been outclassed in four of those matches, with the fifth being an unsatisfying draw at home. Luckily for City, a win would certainly raise the spirits of the boys heading into the final eight matches of the regular season.
Red Bulls: WLWWD
The Red Bulls have been in good form for most of, if not the entirety of the season so far. Coming off a 2-2 away draw in Vancouver on Saturday, Chris Armas’ side will look to widen the gap between second and third place in the East on Wednesday night.
NYCFC: Maxi Moralez
The play of Maxi Moralez this season cannot be focused upon enough. His work on both ends of the pitch has been immense. First in Major League Soccer with 80 key passes, Maxi’s eight goals and twelve assists have made him team MVP thus far. His build-up play has been essential, as he is ranked third in the league in total passes in the middle and attacking thirds of the pitch. Setting the tempo of the match is Maxi’s forte, as he has suffered the third most fouls in the league as well. ‘El Frasquito’ has proven essential to City’s success in a season plagued by attacking injuries.
Red Bulls: Bradley-Wright Phillips
Who else could it be? The Red Bull attacker has had another season in elite goal scoring form, and will look to add on another at Yankee Stadium. Tied for second in MLS in goals with 15, Wright-Phillips has also tacked on 7 assists. Most dangerously for NYCFC, American Soccer Analysis has given BWP a 0.30 ‘solo’ rating, which is second in the league for double-digit goalscorers behind Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Simply, the stat is a percentage of shots taken that were unassisted. Wright-Phillips capitalizes on defensive mistakes, and is clinical in crunch time situations. Without Alexander Callens in defense for the first time in two seasons as a steady passing target in the back, NYCFC must be perfect in build-up to have a chance on Wednesday night.
New York City FC:
Goals: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (10), David Villa (9), Maxi Moralez (8)
Assists: Maxi Moralez (12), Jesus Medina (7), David Villa and Anton Tinnerholm (4)
Home Goals: David Villa and Maxi Moralez (5)
Goals: Bradley Wright-Phillips (15), Daniel Royer (10), Three Players (3)
Assists: Kaku (14), Sean Davis (8), Bradley Wright-Phillips (7)
Away Goals: Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer (5)
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Watch NYCFC v Red Bull on Fox Sports 1 and FoxSportsGo at 7:00 ET or Listen on WNYE 91.5 FM