NYCFC has tough slate ahead, must win to hang on to first in the East
NYCFC has a tough road trip ahead, starting with the Impact at 5 p.m. Sunday.
New York City FC’s tenuous lead in the Eastern Conference just got a tad tighter with its tough 3-1 loss to Sporting KC over the weekend.
And with a slim one-point lead on the Philadelphia Union (29 points), City can’t afford any slippage like the one that happened in Kansas City on Sunday, and they especially can’t allow themselves to replicate a recent stretch in late May-early June when they couldn’t get a win for a solid two weeks.
It wasn’t that Sporting KC (28 points) is an also-ran, but City (8-6-6) needed to nab that victory over the Western Conference’s fifth-best squad -- especially with an upcoming schedule that features three of its next four away from Yankee Stadium.
The Montreal Impact (25 points) are just five points behind the Blue and will be seeking its first win of the season against City. The teams tied, 1-1, on April 27.
Following their matchup in Montreal on July 17, City will travel to Harrison, New Jersey to square off against their cross-river rivals, the New York Red Bulls (24 points) on the 24th, before a home date with the struggling San Jose Earthquakes (22 points). All three are winnable games – particularly San Jose, who is currently sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Red Bulls match will be the one circled, though, as the New Jersey-based franchise finally tasted defeat to City, served 2-0, on July 3 at the Stadium. It was the first loss to City in the series’ two-year history, as the previous five matches were handily tilted in the Red Bulls’ favor.
But before they can run with the Red Bulls again, City must take care of business up north. The snapping of their league-best four-game winning streak on Sunday should be all the motivation needed.
City should be well rested in time for Montreal, as it appeared they were a tired outfit in Kansas City. NYCFC played in three matches in a seven-day span, which may have been a major reason for the sluggish play.
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But for manager Patrick Vieira, he doesn’t want to use the schedule as an excuse. He said his team just ran into a team that played better, and is confident they’ll get back their mojo.
“Of course we take into consideration that we had played our third game in a week. If you saw our players in the dressing room afterwards, they were all really, really tired,” Vieira said, noting the disparity in percentage of possession (a franchise-worst 34 percent). “We just didn’t perform very well. It wasn’t our best game. But I believe that we just have to keep going. We have a few days off and need to recover for our next game ... I think the way that we'll analyze the week is that we had three games, some really difficult games away from home, and we managed to take six points. I believe that was good for the team.”
Frank Lampard, who struggled mightily in the first few months of the season, has seemingly turned the corner. During the Kansas City tilt, he netted his fourth goal in his last five matches. He also agreed with Vieira about the need to rest and recharge, and reasoned the loss was just an example of the up-and-down nature of MLS play.
He’s confident that City won’t revert to old bad habits and will turn around their fortunes, beginning with Montreal.
“We have to remember what made us win four games recently. We'll take out the negatives [from Kansas City] and look back at that game a bit and realize that if we drop our standards, we're going to lose games,” Lampard said. “But that's the nature of the MLS. It's about picking ourselves up, getting back to New York, working hard, and looking forward to the [next] game.”
City is still the best road team in MLS, standing at 5-3-1, so they should be more than ready to tackle this next stretch and regain its once-strong foothold in the conference.