Key points ahead of NYCFC’S home opening match

nycfc, santiago rodriguez
Oct 23, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; New York City midfielder Santiago Rodriguez (20) controls the ball during the second half against the CF Montreal during the conference semifinals for the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The home opening game has arrived. It comes at the perfect time for NYCFC. The new (returning) signings have had proper time to train, and the injured players could be set to return. If you add the result from last week to the mix, it becomes a perfect storm. An opportunity to not only turn the page from recent performances but to start with a clean record at home. Yes, the visitors might come with better results, but the momentum is with NYCFC.

The last time these two teams met ended in a defeat for Inter Miami, an early playoff exit, and early retirement for their main player Gonzalo Higuain. With all of this in mind, I think we are set for a great match, and therefore some key points ahead of Saturday’s match.

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Keys to the match for NYCFC:

Santiago Rodriguez – The return of the playmaker was music to the ears of the NYCFC fanbase. While Santi didn’t have enough minutes to make a proper impact against Chicago, he displayed a few moments of his vision and creativity. The home opening match will give fans the opportunity to give Santi the welcome he deserves. However, the main focus will turn to his involvement in the field. The team is in need to start adding points, so it’s natural to see him in the starting lineup. The advantage here is that he knows the attacking third, so we should expect to see more from Talles Magno and Gabriel Pereira. In fact, Santi’s return could allow Magno to stay on the wing so he can display his skillset to the best potential possible. 

Gabriel Pereira – The Brazilian talent embraced the responsibility of having number 11 on his back. His performance in the previous match left good sensations ahead of a long season. Having a goal to his name gives him the confidence to step into that striker role, ready to increase his goal tally. He knows the field and uses that to his advantage while his opponents complain about it. Saturday might as well be the game where we see the 11 become the 9 the team has been searching for, but have no doubt we are in for a good performance in the attack by the attacking third.

Luis Barraza – I’ll never get tired of saying it, but a successful defense starts with a good goalkeeper. Barraza has managed to channel security and vision to the defensive line. He has made vital saves in 1v1 occasions despite the goals conceded. Because of those critical interventions, he has allowed the defensive line to build chemistry. Look no further than Cufre and Ilenic, both defenders have settled in that defensive line quickly because of Barraza’s security at goal. Knowing that the goal is in good hands allows defenders to join the attacking plays in more often. If that wasn’t the case, the defense would spend more time inside the box. It’s true that he has some gray areas, but he will improve if they give him consistency.

The fans – This right here is perhaps NYCFC’S best not-so-secret weapon. The fans are key to how the game develops. Yes, times have been difficult for the fan base, but the team relies on that 12th player to make the extra push. From drums to trumpets and chants, it’s all fair game as long as it helps the team obtain the result. Fan turnout will be a key factor in a season of changes. The stadium might be a little down the road, but it’s important to continue supporting the team as many did through the championship runs. The team will need all the help they can get to achieve the three points. Hopefully, the turnout is as good as I expect, vamos New York!

I’m sure there are more key points than the ones I mentioned, but to me, these are essential. On a personal level, I’m thrilled to return to the Bronx for a third consecutive season. The outlet might be different, but my commitment and passion for the game remain the same. Hope to see you all on Saturday.