The Boys in Blue are back in the Bronx for consecutive home matches. They face Atlanta United, currently second in the eastern conference standings. The visitors not only come with the motivation of beating the neighbors, but they also want to do a clean sweep by breaking NYCFC’s winning record at home. But that’s where that advantage comes in handy. The Boys in Blue become a completely different team when they play in the Bronx.
NYCFC has succeeded against Atlanta on home turf, but things have changed for both teams recently. Having that in mind, here are my pointers or what to look for ahead of the match on Saturday
NYCFC Game Breakers:
Richie Ledezma & the midfield– The young midfielder made some noise in the final minutes against New England. While he did take time adapting, he displayed some good moments alongside his teammates once he got comfortable. If he is given more minutes against Atlanta, combined with the training during the week, we may see a new variation in midfield. I still don’t see him as a starter, but it looks like Keaton Parks might have found competition in midfield. Regardless, that section of the field must remain untouched for the time being. Sands and company played very well in the previous games at home.
Talles Magno on the wing- This is perhaps the pointer where most of the fanbase in MLS find common ground. The fanbase had a small preview of him outside of the striker role last weekend. Yes, he scored the crucial goal of the match, but that came from a set-piece play. Having Gabe Segal relieved the pressure the Brazilian had had in recent weeks. If anything, he played better and even connected with Ledezma, that alone is a partnership that the team could help develop. In the meantime, Magno should remain in the wing so that Segal can have a chance to develop enough chemistry in the much-needed striker position. In fact, why not add John Denis to that equation?
Covering the Right Back slot- This has become a concern recently, not because of lack of quality, but due to the injuries in the position. Both Tayvon Gray and Mitja Ilenic have picked up injuries in recent weeks, so the team must have a plan to cover their absence if they don’t return in time for Saturday. If anything, I at least hope that Ilenic comes on as a substitute. Regardless, Atlanta might be targeting that area to hurt NYCFC, so they have to keep close tabs there on Saturday.
Thiago Almada- The golden boy in MLS is having a great season so far. He has become a major asset for Atlanta and impresses the league with good performances constantly. With this in mind, NYCFC must prevent giving Almada any chances to take free kicks near the box. There is no doubt that he is good at elaborating fouls as well, so this is also a warning for the defensive line. Atlanta is probably enjoying the last few months with the Argentinian on their roster and will look to win as many games as possible before he leaves. The World Cup winner is one to watch at Yankee Stadium.
The Fans- You thought I was going to forget, right? The 12th player is unmissable, especially at Yankee Stadium. If anything, they make more of a difference than the usual field dimension complains. As always is time for The Third Rail and the rest of the NYCFC supporters to show up once again. The team always finds motivation whenever they hear the noise and support from that section in the stands. If you add the fact that the weather is improving a bit, we should see a full supporters section on Saturday, so don’t miss out!
In summary, there is a lot to be seen Saturday, from a new striker to a variation in midfield. Both are exciting new prospects looking to make noise in front of the home crowd. But the general objective is to continue the winning streak at home. If we make The Bronx the fortress once again, the team will surely be unstoppable this season. Even if they have a World Cup winner in their squad.
See you Saturday!