Preview: NYCFC Looks To Turn Salt Lake To Brine

by Anthony J. Merced

NYCFC have to feel confident after taking a point against FC Dallas on the road on Sunday, confident enough to travel to Salt Lake City and feel like they can take all three points from Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night. New York is on a three game unbeaten streak with three out of their last five games being wins. On the contrary, Mike Petke’s Real Salt Lake has lost four in a row and looking up from near the bottom of the Western Conference.

The biggest question facing Patrick Vieira is whether he’ll use Andrea Pirlo. The Italian football legend traveled to Salt Lake City, bypassing Dallas and could start on Wednesday night. Pirlo has been replaced in recent games by Yangel Herrera and Tommy McNamara. Both have been incredibly effective offensively and, in the case of Herrera, defensively as well. Vieira may be reaching the point where he realizes that Pirlo, who is considering retirement at the end of the season, isn’t the best option in the midfield for his formation. Should the team stumble in Utah, it is possible that the replacement experiment could become permanent.

Projected Starting XI: Johnson; White, Chanot, Brillant, Seat; Pirlo, Lopez, McNamara; Lewis, Okoli, Wallace

Worth Noting:

  • Don’t be surprised if David Villa and Jack Harrison are not featured in this game. Not only is the competition lesser, but the team will have to turnaround quickly and play Orlando City on Sunday. The Eastern Conference clash holds major importance in the standings as Salt Lake allows for younger players to be featured more prominently.
  • Sean Okoli will get another chance to shine. He looked strong against the Columbus Crew a few weeks back but the 2016 USL MVP is surely looking for his first MLS goal. Along with Rodney Wallace, Okoli will be asked to do some heavy lifting on the offensive side of the ball. Whether Okoli is up to the task remains to be seen but Vieira will be placing him in a position where a strong showing could go a long way towards his future in the club.
  • Tommy McNamara continues to impress in the midfield, this time providing the game-tying goal against FC Dallas. Vieira has minimized his role to that of a bench player this season but McNamara has proven to be willing to accept the challenge. He and Yangel Herrera are currently battling it out for Pirlo’s spot but with Herrera away at the U-20 World Cup, McNamara has the coach’s undivided attention. It could go a long way towards regaining his starting position.