The Quakes will try to earn points this afternoon in Yankee Stadium versus the New York City Football Club. The Quakes have struggled on the road, netting just one road win since the beginning of 2016, which will make today’s contest all the more meaningful for a team with playoffs on their mind.
Although Frank Lampard is no longer with the club, NYCFC boasts several great players that could cause trouble for the Quakes defense. Centerbacks Flo Jungwirth and Victor Bernardez will be tasked with containing NYCFC’s explosive forward David Villa. Fullback Shaun Francis will have a difficult day against midfielder/forward Rodney Wallace; both Wallace and Villa have two goals on the season. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo–the most interesting man in MLS–is still with the club, and averages two key passes per contest. Unfortunately Pirlo has yet to see a key pass turned into an assist; don’t be surprised if it happens today. Attacking mids Maxi Morales and Jack Harrison should also keep the Quakes defense on their toes.
Expect NYCFC to use the same formation that Sporting KC did two weeks ago, a 4-3-3 with Villa, Wallace, and Harrison up top, Pirlo controlling the center with Alex Ring to his right and Maxi Morales to his left. Defensively, Max Chanot and Alex Callens should be tasked with covering Wondo, which could leave opportunities for Marco Urena to try and generate shots versus right-back Ethan White (or possibly RJ Allen). Sean Johnson will start in goal. Expect Patrick Vieira to implement the same press used by SKC, as the high press was San Jose’s undoing at Children’s Mercy Park.
The Quakes, and their predictability, may (will?) be their undoing. Dom Kinnear seems content to run the empty bucket until it runs dry. The good news is that a bucket 4-4-2 can be effective against a 4-3-3 (see the Quakes’ 5-0 win over SKC in 2015), but only if done correctly. If San Jose tries to use the high press, which brought success against Montreal, it would certainly backfire as it did in Kansas City as SKC used their own press to set up numerous counter-attack opportunities. A 4-3-3 allows for more forward players to play wide for easy passing lanes, and just one bad press can set up a break-away. In Kansas City, Victor Bernardez was caught out of position more than once trying to press, causing Jungwirth to have to clean up the mess several times. Also, a team can’t run a press without everyone helping, and midfielder Simon Dawkins seemed content to jog rather than run last game, which opened up holes in the Quakes’ press for SKC to exploit. The Quakes will certainly run the bucket, don’t expect a win if they also run the press. Pray Kinnear runs a bunker-and-counter defense to keep Muma back and set up opportunities for Godoy and Lima to counter.
Don’t expect changes to the Quakes lineup, either; Dom is a conservative (and thus predictable) coach. Bingham in goal. Lima, Flo, Bernardez, and Francis on the backline. Hyka, Fatai, Godoy, and Dawkins in the middle, with Wondo and Urena up top. Shea, Tommy, and Hoesen should see minutes off the bench.
I would love to see the Quakes run a 4-1-3-2, similar to what the USMNT did against Honduras, with Hyka at the #10, Tommy playing the right-wing, and Godoy at defensive mid. But after two years of covering Dom’s coaching, wishing for change, and disappointing results due to keeping the same formation and tactics, I’m resigned to seeing Fatai out there in place of Tommy, and the double-defensive mid setup.
If the Quakes can run a bunker-and-counter 4-4-2 (read: DON’T press Muma too high, stay back and look to get the ball out fast), they could take advantage of NYCFC’s 4-3-3. If not, they could be on the losing end of a 3-4 goal performance by NYCFC.
So based purely on coaching, and not players, I expect Vieira to have his team ready to employ SKC’s 4-3-3 press. I also expect Dom to use the same 4-4-2 bucket press he used against Montreal with Dawkins in the lineup, which was a spectacular failure in Kansas City, to give the home team a 3-1 win. David Villa would exploit the hell out of Bernardez if the Quakes press Bernardez high on Villa.
If Dawkins doesn’t play, and/or if Dom actually adapts a game-plan which is built for countering the 4-3-3 press (like the bunker-and-counter), the Quakes could take three points from the Big Apple via a 2-0 scoreline.