The Colorado Rapids and New York City FC are not conference rivals. We aren’t even in the same conference, so we only see the Yankees of MLS once a year. While they are suffering from a bunch of injuries, the Rapids are coming off of their first away win, which should make for an interesting game at altitude. Confidence should be high for the Burgundy Boys this week, especially at home, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
We talked to Jake at Hudson River Blue about whether or not NYCFC will come at the Rapids full force, how to slow them down if they do, and what is going on with Andrea Pirlo?
Burgundy Wave: NYCFC is sitting pretty in second place in the Eastern Conference. Considering that this is not a conference match and there is travel required, how seriously do you think the team is taking this one?
Hudson River Blue: This is a tricky question to answer. If NYC FC were to take the game very seriously, you might see us push some of the players in the team that are injured or coming off injury. I think David Villa could play if he had to this week, same goes for Alexander Ring (who may well play anyway) and possibly a few others. New York will have a sour taste in its mouth following a poor 0-1 result at home against Portland, so I'll be curious to see how Patrick Vieira pushes the team.
That said, I think Vieira takes it easy and rests these key players. New York is nine points off of Toronto but also have a five point cushion on Chicago, so there isn't a great deal of urgency to get points Saturday. Vieira will want to see a bounce back from some key players, and while New York may not have a lot of urgency to get points, the team needs to keep up its good form as we inch towards the postseason.
BW: That David Villa guy is pretty good. So is Jack Harrison. And Maxi Moralez, etc. etc. What's the key to slowing down the NYC offense?
One of the keys is to not have to play our best players, check that off the list for Colorado. No David Villa this weekend definitely, and some key contributors in the midfield are also going to be absent. That still leaves the likes of Jack Harrison, Jonathan Lewis and Rodney Wallace in wide positions. The best way to slow down this group of dynamic players is to cut off supply. Jack and Rodney, playing out wide, need to get fed the ball in space to be effective. When Jack is given a chance to run one verse one and cut inside or take his defender down the line, he is one of MLS's most dangerous players.
Maxi, meanwhile, is best neutralized if he's forced to drop deeper into the midfield or pick up the ball in our half. This tends to happen naturally if we play Andrea "Walking Disaster" Pirlo alongside him in the midfield. Pirlo is so horrific tracking back that Maxi shoulders a lot of the responsibility in the midfield and that diminishes his effect in the final third.
I'm curious to see how we line up. I'm not sure we have enough players (seriously) to give Maxi the protection he needs, so the Rapids may come into this with an advantage over NYC before the whistle blows.
BW: I'm sure this is a sore subject, but what's going on with Pirlo? Is it an issue of being over MLS? Over NYCFC?
I think he's just bad. Straight up. He's always been a physically inferior player even at his peak, so it's not shocking that he's been really bad as a 38 year old in a league as physical as MLS.
Pirlo was brought in for two reasons: The first, to improve the midfield by adding his exceptional vision and passing ability. The second, to sell tickets. I'm sure the club knew the player had a shelf-life of one, maybe two years and in year two he's lost much of his ability. Rewind back to this time last year, Pirlo was a slow turnstile in defense, but he still had the ability to drop in a dangerous pass to one of our forwards. This year it seems he doesn't even have the ability to make that pass and every time he sets foot on the field, NYC FC play poorly. Here's the stat: In games Pirlo starts, NYC FC is 4-1-7. In all other games the team is 11-4-1.
Pirlo is a legend and he's had his moments with the club, but his time in MLS is done, If it weren't for injuries to a long list of players, I assure you he would be living out his days with NYC riding the bench.
New York is going to give Colorado a better fight than they gave Portland and the defending was there at home. I worry about this specific team's ability to create goals but I still see New York taking the three points in a hard-fought 1-0 game.