After an embarrassing and outright pathetic performance last Friday night against Alejandro Pozuelo and Toronto FC, NYCFC look to bounce back in a major way Saturday afternoon against the Montreal Impact in a matinee match at Yankee Stadium.
Both teams will be coming into the match hungry and desperate for points especially considering the Impact were bludgeoned even worse than City in a 7-1 defeat at the weekend against western powerhouse Sporting KC. It is a match that both teams frantically need to get all three points. However, both sides will be going into the match banged up and that tends to level the playing field.
Captain Alex Ring was very vocal both after the trouncing in Toronto and during training sessions this week about how everyone needs to step up going forward, starting against Montreal. He described last week’s match as “inexcusable” and emphasized responsibility and reflection. That message seemed to carry into this week’s training as Ring described the sessions as “chippy”. That’s something desperately needed in the squad as it seems like at times complacency is an issue and for a team that hasn’t won a match yet, that’s frankly unreal. A good captain and leader sometimes have to light a proverbial fire in the hearts of his teammates and it appears at the very least that Ring was able to accomplish that. Time will tell if it makes a difference in the match on Saturday but given how they were humiliated last week, they better come out firing on all cylinders. Anything less and the already simmering supporters will only get louder and angrier.
Fortunately for City, Montreal will be without easily their best and most influential player, Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti who is sidelined with a knee injury sustained in a match on March 16th against Orlando City SC and hasn’t played since. Montreal head coach Rémi Garde spoke on Thursday and ruled Piatti out of the match against City and even said it wasn’t likely for him to in the Impact’s next match against DC United next Tuesday. Piatti’s Impact on the team was felt immensely as they were run off the pitch and broken down in every possible way versus Sporting KC in a 7-1 massacre. Piatti has a hand in everything the Impact does offensively and without at the very least, his presence makes the Impact that much more weakened as a unit. Piatti scored three goals in the first three matches of the new season and overall Piatti has scored a whopping 64 goals in 127 appearances for Montreal since 2014 and is regarded as one of the best MLS players of all time.
It can’t be overstated how massive losing Piatti is for the Impact as he’s tied for the team lead in goals with midfielder Saphir Taider with three and only one other player has even scored for Montreal this season. This is something that City has got to take advantage of in the Bronx on Saturday.
Montreal isn’t the only team that has injuries however, as Maxi Moralez missed last week’s match in Toronto due to a knock sustained in training in the week leading up to the match. Domenec Torrent spoke to the media earlier in the week and said that Moralez was still feeling discomfort and didn’t train at all this week, so it appears very unlikely that City’s Spider-Man will swing into the match on Saturday. It was evident how lost City was in the offensive third without Moralez’s creativity and it will be interesting to see who Torrent puts in that spot and how he deploys his formation. A major key to their tactics depends on if newly acquired Brazilian striker Héber will be good to go this weekend. He arrived in New York last Friday and there was no way he would’ve played in Toronto, but he trained fully with the squad this week which is a positive sign.
It just comes down to how quickly he can shake off the rust as he is massively needed in the center of City’s front line. That has yet to be determined however as Torrent said he was unsure if Héber was ready to start and play a whole 90 minutes or to play for 30-40 minutes off the bench. It would be a huge boost for the boys in blue if they can get Héber for a full ninety in his City debut as their number nine.
This match is as close to a must-win for NYCFC as you can have in early April but it’s simple, they’re in second to the last place in the East with only defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United behind them and the points need to start adding up and fast. Draws aren’t acceptable at this venture and the level of intensity needs to be off the charts for the Pigeons. Montreal will be coming out guns blazing as well and it will be a test of City’s resolve and heart.
The supporters will be ready to go as they always are but if City doesn’t get off to a great start it has a very good chance to get ugly at least from a supporter standpoint, especially considering how most supporters are already calling for Domenec Torrent to lose his job. The support will be there for sure, but City has to give this rabid fan base something to cheer about as they simply haven’t given enough in the first four matches.
This a very early point in the season but it is an absolutely pivotal one for NYCFC as with a win they have a chance to get back on track, but anything less and this downward spiral will only get deeper.
Featured Image: Chris Magalee