Preview: NYCFC (a).
Updated: Jul 25, 2021
When? Sunday July 25, 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. BST.
Where? Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, NY.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States. Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV for residents of the greater Orlando area. The game is also available via radio (Orlando) on 96.9 The Game, Accion 97.9 and 810 AM. The game is being broadcast on Sky Sports Football for us UK folk.
The thing that amazes me about this league is, you have things like the US Open Cup being cancelled due to a congested fixture schedule.... But you also have the league starting a month late, teams having 10 days off and then 2 games in 3 days... The schedule is bonkers. Thankfully Orlando City are still along the seaboard for this one.
Regardless, this promises to be another difficult game for Oscar Pareja's team. Whilst NYCFC have yet to get going, Yankee Stadium is no easy place to go and pick up 3 points. Ronny Deila's team are not to be trifled with, particularly when they find their rhythm. If I'm being honest, I wouldn't view a draw as a negative result at all; particularly with back-to-back home games against the Plastics and Inter Fort Lauderdale coming up.
We all know the strengths of Ronny Deila's team, we've encountered them enough times over the last couple of years. And, it's fair to say, games between these two sides are rarely dull. Even the 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium in May was a thrilling game. They're an attacking side that like to goal full throttle. And they've certainly got the players to operate that way. Their overall XG rating of 1.75, and home XG rating of 1.84 (figure 1) is indicative of the task that awaits Orlando City's defenders on Sunday. They've scored a very respectable 21 goals, whilst Orlando City have only conceded 14; only Columbus boasts a better record in the east. One of the league's top attacks is coming up against one of the league's best defences.
Figure 1 shows NYCFC's overall goal-scoring statistics on the season so far.
For me, though, the biggest threat from NYCFC comes from the 3 forwards behind the main striker, particularly if Valentín Castellanos plays at the 9. The reason being is that Castellanos uses his pace to stretch defences, which creates space centrally for the likes of Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina. If you look at the heatmaps in figures 2, and 3 you'll see what I mean. These heatmaps were captured during the win over Montréal. You'll notice from Castellanos' heatmap (figure 2), that he tends to roam from left to right. You'll also notice from Moralez's and Medina's movements (figure 3), that they often like to occupy the space Castellanos creates with his movements.
Interestingly, they also drop a lot deeper. The reasons for this are two-fold; 1, they like to get on the ball and get things moving from deep positions (most creative players do). And 2, such movements encourage opposing teams to push forward and pressure them. They then happen to have a pacy striker who can exploit balls over the top. Knowing when and where to press is going to be so important for the Lions.
Figure 1 shows Valentín Castellanos' heatmap from the win over Montréal, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Maxi Moralez's and Jesus Medina's heatmap from the win over Montréal, whole 90.
New York City FC will be without Heber and Sean Johnson for this game, through injury and international duty respectively. James Sands is also on Gold Cup duty, whilst Talles Magno will also sit this game out with an undisclosed injury.
Orlando City, meanwhile, are definitely without Daryl Dike, Junior Urso is also expected to miss out*, with Sebas Mendez listed as questionable. Alexandre Pato and Ruan are also listed as questionable, though both should be involved as per Julia Poe.
Possible starting XI
I think, given the packed schedule this week, it's hard to see any team in Major League Soccer not rotating. As such, I believe Ronny Deila will make a few changes from the team that faced Montréal, lining up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation like so:
Whilst it's fair to say that Moralez has yet to hit the heights he has in previous seasons, you'd be foolish to count him out. The Argentine forward has started 9 games so far this season, and made a further 2 substitute appearances amassing 840 minutes so far in 2021. He's yet to contribute a goal, but has tallied 3 assists. He's still looked dangerous at times this season, averaging 2.2 shots per game and 2.7 key passes as well as averaging 1.7 dribbles a game. His ability to find and exploit space make him a formidable opponent. He's a player blessed with close ball control, and a low centre of gravity which allows him to draw fouls easily; the NYCFC no. 10 is fouled 2.5 times a game. Dangerous player.
It's fair to say NYCFC's form has been somewhat patchy of late with 3 wins and 3 defeats in their last 6 games. With an overall 6-2-5 record, the Bronx based outfit currently (at time of writing) sit 7th in the east, just above the line. They did win their last game, however. A 1-0 home win over CF Montréal has given them a much needed lift.
Orlando City, on the other hand, are 7-4-3 on the season, and sitting pretty in 2nd place. The Lion's impressive 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union halted a somewhat alarming slide in results. Orlando will be looking to make it 2 wins on the spin heading into rivalry week.
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