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Scouting report: Taking a bite out of New York City FC

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How to beat the Manchester City youth squad/NYCFC

MLS: New York City FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Who You’ll Watch

The Sounders will travel clear across the country to take on New York City FC this Saturday. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 10:00 am PT (yeah, that’s right). This is the one and only regular season meeting between the two clubs.

City is currently in third place of the Eastern Conference (24 points on 15 games played; 1.6 ppg) while the Sounders currently hold down the sixth spot in the West (19 points on 15 games; 1.28 ppg).

Last year, New York City came into CenturyLink and beat a very bad Sounders team 2-0. The year prior, Seattle went to Yankee Stadium and put on a clinic in beating them 3-1 on their miniature field. Overall, the series is tied 1-1 with three goals scored each and neither team winning at home.

The last time out, the Sounders defeated a decent Houston Dynamo team 1-0 on Will Bruin’s goal late in the second half. New York won 2-1 against the Philadelphia Union with goals from Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens.

The Sounders should be fairly rested going into this game. They will have all of their internationals back (Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Roman Torres, Joevin Jones and Oniel Fisher).

NYCFC notable roster changes

Out: Frank Lampard, Andoni Iraola, Mehdi Ballouchy, Josh Saunders, Mix Diskerud

In: Sean Okoli, Sean Johnson, Rodney Wallace

Current Form

NYCFC: 2-2-1 with nine goals scored and eight conceded.

Top Scorer: David Villa, eight goals

Top Assist Leader: Maxi Moralez, seven assists

Seattle: 3-2-0 with three goals scored and six conceded.

Top Scorer: Dempsey and Bruin, four each

Top Assist Leader: J. Jones and Nicolas Lodeiro, five each

Injuries

NYCFC

Khiry Shelton (hamstring injury) Andrea Pirlo (knee injury) will both be out for this game.

Seattle

Henry Wingo (right ankle sprain) was the only Sounders player that was listed on the injury report but he played in final 10 minutes of the Open Cup match against Portland.

What You’ll Watch

Have you ever wanted to watch foosball with humans? Do you find yourself often arguing the pros of watching six players crowd around the ball at all times? Do you relish playing on little league 60-foot basepaths as an adult? Then have I got a soccer pitch in a baseball stadium for you.

City’s field certainly isn’t ideal, but don’t let it lull you into thinking their record is due entirely to home-field advantage (despite the field, they’re only middle of the league in aerials won). Le meilleur français dans MLS, Patrick Vieira, lines them up in a 4-3-3 with a lone CDM when Herrera is available, and a more flat three when he isn’t.

David Villa is still a major pain to keep track of, sees passes few other forwards can, and is more than capable of scoring if left alone. The supporting cast of Jack Harrison and Maxi Moralez - as well as Rodney Wallace, Alexander Ring, and Tommy McNamara - is more than capable of knocking in the pinball opportunities that fall to them. Indeed, they seem to have little problem doing so; NYCFC is sitting on 27 goals for the season, just one off the league lead as a team.

City’s midfield was a bit of a gambler’s paradise to start the season, but dropping Pirlo (officially, he has some sort of lingering injury) and adding Yangel Herrera has added much-needed structure.

The defensive side is hit and miss - none of the back line are particularly convincing in attack (from the OBs) or defense, and all seem prone to ball watching at inopportune times. Of course, when you have Pirlo practicing for his career as a matador in front of you, it can be difficult to figure out which direction he’ll olé the ball in, but with Herrera in front things seem to tighten up significantly.

Shrink the field even further - NYCFC’s modus operandi is wide play, but they don’t rely entirely on crosses for scoring opportunities. Instead, they often use quick, short interplay with Moralez and Harrison (and Villa slaloms), with a focus on maintaining possession (just barely second in the league at 56.3% per match) and generating quality shot opportunities. They sit firmly mid-table in shots per game, but lead the league in SOG/g and SOG/S. They are extremely efficient at putting the ball on frame when given the opportunity.

City’s only loss on the year at home came at the hands of Orlando, who drove the line of attack further up field and forced the midfield into early long balls. Seattle’s 4-2-3-1 is set up well to combat this wide play and take advantage of the space in behind, much as they recently did against Houston.

If they’re to limit Harrison and Moralez in this way it will require a strong defensive contribution from Joevin Jones, and significant help from a CDM and the LWM. Villa, for all his strengths, is not going to beat Torres and Marshall in aerial battles (as long as they’re able to keep track of him), and limiting his service will pull him deeper than Vieira will like. If they’re able to pull this off, coming out of the Bronx with a result is well within reason.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Saturday, June 17 10:00 AM (not a typo)

Venue: Yankee Stadium

Television: ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)