Who Starts? Knockout Round

By Nick Fiorino (@stretch_fio)

Ahead of Wednesday’s Knockout Round, most fans would argue that the same starting eleven that defeated the Union just three days ago should start again. I find it naive to think Jim Curtin’s side will not adjust, if not positionally then certainly tactically. Domè, City’s supposed tactical advantage, should be one-step ahead. With NYCFC finally at full strength, the options are plenty. At Yankee Stadium, in front of City supporters, there are no more excuses.


I expect the front three to feature two changes from Sunday’s win. Jesus Medina received mixed reviews from not only supporters this weekend but his manager as well, and I expect him to start on the bench. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been a revelation this season, and it would be a crime not to feature the eleven goal scorer in the Knockout Round. David Villa has scored in four of his last six matches, including two in a row. A confident captain should produce results. On the left, I expect Ronald Matarrita to drop back into defense, and Valentin Castellanos to get the starting nod. In per-match statistics, ‘Taty’ averages four shots a match, placing him in elite company; just ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and just behind Miguel Almirón. Looking at expected goals yields the same result, with Castellanos sandwiched between Gyasi Zardes and Alberth Elis, tied with Zlatan in the important statistic. Castellanos deserves the start, and I believe Domè will give it to him.

Subs: Jo Inge Berget, Jesus Medina


NYCFC is at their best when Maxi Moralez, Alexander Ring, and Yangel Herrera are together in the middle. Advanced statistics help tell the story of why the midfield trio have been so successful. In the defensive third of the pitch, Alexander Ring ranks second in MLS in passes completed per match. In the middle third of the pitch, Yangel Herrera ranks fourth in MLS in passes completed per match. In the attacking third of the pitch, Maxi Moralez has completed the fourth most passes in the league. Showcasing all three players together lends itself to City’s possession based style, and limits the opposition’s chances. City will be almost guaranteed to see the majority of the ball on Sunday, and as long as their fluid and dynamic first-choice midfield stays intact. The midfield was the team’s strength on Sunday, and I expect nothing less than an amazing performance from three of City’s most influential players on Wednesday.

Subs: Ebenezer Ofori


Ben Sweat has been an amazing value for NYCFC, and a somewhat under-appreciated constant on a back line plagued by injury this season; Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, and Ronald Matarrita all missed time. That being said, Sweat tends to make a few mistakes each start, which leaves City exposed. Domè’s affinity for Matarrita should shine through on Sunday, and I believe that the Costa Rican international will provide a vintage performance from left back. Partly due to his appearances as a winger, and partly due to his aggressive attacking style, Matarrita is one of the most productive wingbacks in the league. At home, Mata should be ready to roll.

Subs: Ben Sweat, Sebastien Ibeagha

We expect a victory and nothing less on Wednesday, then our sights can be set on a reeling Atlanta United. This may just be City’s season after all...Come on New York!

Player Stats

New York City FC:

Goals: David Villa (14), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (11), Maxi Moralez (8)

Assists: Maxi Moralez (16), Jesus Medina (7), Anton Tinnerholm (6)

Home Goals: David Villa (9)

Philadelphia Union:

Goals: Cory Burke (10), Fafa Picault (10), Ilsinho (9)

Assists: Borek Dockal (18), Haris Medunjanin (7), Alejandro Bedoya (6)

Away Goals: Fafa Picault (7)

MLS Statistics

Advanced Individual Statistics

Follow Nick Fiorino on Twitter at @stretch_fio and The Third Rail at @ThirdRailSC. Interested in learning more about the Third Rail? Visit our website at thirdrail.nyc for merchandise, weekly game previews and more. Interested in joining? Click here.

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