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Seattle Sounders vs. NYCFC, Scouting Report: Villa, Pirlo and why they are better on the road

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New York City is better on the road because their aging stars like their space.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle is undefeated in their MLS history against teams located in the state of New York. That really means nothing, but Seattle did beat them 3-1 in that baseball stadium they call home last year. This year they are not lead by Jason Kreis but by Patrick Vieira. Typically Vieira plays a 4-3-3, but has gone with multiple three man backlines this season. But with such variation between home and away play for Man City Lite, it is hard to read into their early season formation changes.

At home, NYCFC plays on a very narrow and fairly short field. It leads to physical play and any pass can become a long ball. Problem is, the players they want on the ball (Pirlo and Villa) like to have loads of space and pockets to move into, things that do not exist at home. So when they go on the road, it’s like a vacation; they stretch out and look to pass often and use the space that they usually do not have. Their record shows this, going 2-3-5 at home but 3-2-1 on the road. They play better on the road tactically speaking, which is rare for clubs. Instead of going on the road and packing it in and hoping for a goal, they go for a high-flying attack. They have 11 goals from six road matches (almost two per match) versus 14 goals from 10 home matches. The good news is that for a team with Andrea Pirlo, not a single set piece goal has come on the road. Bad news: They still have four total at home.

David Villa is a goal scorer. That’s the clinical term for him and he’s shown it with 11 goals this season. Thomas McNamara, who joined after Chivas USA disappeared, has only three goals, but shows up as second on the list. He also has contributed with five assists to help lead one of the better offenses (a group is tied with 27 goals, they have 25). Pirlo is a facilitator but overall has not been a major threat to be the one to put the ball in the net, and Frank Lampard has played so minimally he is an unknown quantity. He’ll likely play with Pirlo in the middle and a defensive mid. That combination will allow Seattle to run down the middle with speed and control the midfield because Osvaldo Alonso and Erik Friberg can cover roughly triple the space that Pirlo and Lampard can at this point in their careers.

Defensively, NYCFC is a bit of a tire fire across the board. For the 11 goals they’ve scored, they’ve given up 10 on the road (all but one of those from open play), while at home it is 21 against. Though if we take out the 7-0 Red Bulls loss it is 14 against. What’s the point of all these numbers? NYCFC will give up goals, no matter the back line combination and even to the weakest offenses. Even Federic Brillant, one of the starting CB’s, would be tied for second highest goals for the Sounders this year; but his are both own goals. Maybe a third this time around? Expect this group to give up goals this weekend, even to our anemic offense.

The lack of defense and likely having two  passers in the midfield who are very skilled but have less mobility than foosball-foosmen trying to go up and down the pitch means Seattle should be able to press a bit and turn into an immediate attack. The Sounders should be able to get a couple of goals without a problem against this backline. There are only two questions: Can the Sounders convert their shots on goals into goals? Can they stop David Villa? If yes is the answer to both, it’ll be a multi-goal win. If the answer is yes to only one, expect a one goal win or draw, but if the answer to both is no, we are looking at another somber home match.

I think Seattle answers yes to both and gets three past Josh Saunders in another 3-1 win over NYCFC. Also of note, Jason Hernandez is suspended for this one and will lead to a different centerback pairing, which should give Seattle even more help with getting into the net.

Lineups: (R-L)

NYCFC: Saunders, White, Brillant, Matarrita, Allen, Lampard, Iraola, Pirlo, Harrison, Villa, McNamara

Sounders: Frei, Mears, Evans, Marshall, Jones, Alonso, Friberg, Ivanschitz, Gomez, Morris, Kovar