New York City FC will be strolling into town Sunday to kickoff the 2016 MLS season for the Chicago Fire.
The Manchester City Blues and Twos came in super hyped for the 2015 season but failed to make the playoffs with fellow expansion team Orlando City SC. Still, NYCFC was better than the Chicago Fire. But both teams have major changes coming into this year, including their head coaches. Serbian Veljko Paunovic will lead the Men in Red while French legend Patrick Vieira takes the reins at NYCFC.
Hudson Blue River writer Jake Gofman took some time to answer a few questions from Hot Time, giving Fire fans an insight into what might be expected Sunday. From the Big 3 of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, to the new coach Vieira, Gofman covers the "need to know" before Sunday's clash.
1) Both teams are heading into the season with a new coach. What have been the early impressions of Patrick Viera and what style should we expect to see Sunday?
Vieira, who for the record may want to consider changing his name so it's easier to spell, has been transparent and forthcoming with the fans and media, which I think everyone has appreciated. This has been especially important because many saw bringing him on as yet another way for Manchester City ownership to insert themselves into the club and make it City's American team.
Tactically, he and City's ownership want NYCFC to play an aesthetically pleasing style, not unlike Kreis had us playing last season; however, Vieira is going to push this further now that there has been continuity in the squad. We're focusing on playing out of the back whenever possible and I don't expect a lot of counter play.
So far we've seen some of the same concepts in terms of keeping possession and controlling the midfield as last year, which makes sense because it is a strength of ours. Formation wise, we expect a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 at times to best utilize our midfield talent. Vieira has been experimenting with Adam Jacobson and Federico Bravo in the hybrid CDM-CB role to improve play out of the back.
Defensively, It looks like we're going to be pressing high when we're out of possession to utilize Khiry Shelton and Tony Taylor's athleticism.
2) NYCFC came into its first season with a lot of hype. After failing to make the playoffs, is there still a strong buzz about the team or is there any concern the Manchester City relationship might cause more harm than good?
I think in just about every case, the second year for a new team is never going to trump (Drumpf) the first year's excitement. Sleepwalking through the first half of the season to a poor record was disappointing, as was missing the playoffs. Couple that with the details of our murky relationship with City and I think a lot of fans were reasonably disheartened.
That being said, we have developed really strong support and our attendance, even during our poor spell, was strong all season. Coming into this season I think the buzz is around the strength of the squad and its consistency. Getting our DPs, new signings, and remaining players together for a full preseason is something we did not have the luxury of last year. The City relationship is always going to loom over our heads, but fans are genuinely excited about this team's prospects and expect a trip to the playoffs this season.
3) What do you expect from the big three of Villa, Lampard and Pirlo in the first game? Should they be the Fire's primary concern or do you see a different player stealing the spotlight in Viera's first game?
Lampard is being held out over injury concerns for our first match and, in general, Vieira made it clear on his conference call this week that Pirlo and Lampard will not play in a three man midfield together (phew). I would expect strong performances from both Villa and Pirlo on Sunday given what we've seen from them both in preseason, but you already know what you're going to get from those guys in terms of production and quality.
If you're looking for a player who may cause the Fire trouble that is under the radar, I would look at winger Tony Taylor or left back Ronald Matarrita. Taylor is really gifted but had to sit out almost all of last season with injury. He's looked strong in preseason and has a ton of raw athleticism. Matarrita, who the club signed from Alajuelense in Costa Rica, is going to be the LB of choice to start this season and is really quick and capable of contributing to the attack. The left side of our attack, which may be the two of them, could have overwhelming speed.
4) What's your prediction for the game?
Rose colored rec specs on, I have NYCFC winning 2-1.
To see what Hot Time had to say about the game to Hudson River Blue, check out the site here.