There is no real need for an introduction for this week’s game. The New York Red Bulls take on their crosstown rival. This affair will be the hottest one yet between the two teams. As temperatures approach the high 90’s and both teams try to win the regular season series - it looks to be an exciting affair. Once a Metro previewed the game with Jake Gofman from SB Nation "rival" Hudson River Blue.
Once a Metro: A lot of the time people have been saying that Frank Lampard and Pirlo can't play together in midfield in MLS due to their age and work rate. So far this year, since Lampard's return it seems like it's worked well. What has been the key to that success? Has it been the move of Iraola to the midfield or is it just time?
Hudson River Blue: You can include me in that group of people who never thought this was going to work. On the surface level, their pairing should leave NYC exposed at the back due to their lack of speed and athleticism. However, it's working, and it might have more to do with those around them, than the two players themselves.
Don't get me wrong, Lamps and Pirlo have really stepped their game up and they're in excellent playing shape right now, as opposed to last season when they were coming over from Europe. That being said, Vieira has covered up for all of their deficiencies in an ingenious way, pairing the two in a three person midfield with Andoni Iraola, as you mentioned, and flanking the two with wingers who have midfielder mentalities. Jumping Jack Harrison and Tommy Mac are willing and capable of tracking back and covering up for the two if they get into advanced positions, and that helps keep New York defenders out of trouble.
OaM: Jack Harrison has really emerged as a spark plug for NYCFC in the recent weeks. I know he scored against the Red Bull's last game but what about his play makes him so dangerous? And what can the Red Bulls do to slow him down and throw him off his game?
HRB: Jack has been a revelation since he got his first start. We knew he would be good, but he's been so much more than we could have expected for someone at his age. His effectiveness starts with his touch and his feel for the game. Jack is a very intelligent player, being a natural center midfielder, which helps him get into dangerous areas. When he's on the ball, his touch is class, and he can take players on one on one, something Red Bulls players are likely aware of at this point. Being a central midfielder, he can also play the killer ball into the box from wide or produce the deft layoff to an attacking player. These skills have endeared him to David Villa, who seems to be mentoring Jack at this point.
He's still young and fairly small, so I would expect Red Bulls to try and knock him around a bit and play physical. If he's given too much space, he is a handful, so closing him down fast will be Red Bulls' best defense.
OaM: Having excised their metaphorical demon and finally getting a win vs the Red Bulls, how do you think NYCFC will approach this game? Will the team try to be more conservative away from home or do you think that they'll really try to come after the Red Bulls at RBA and put the Red Bulls on their back heel?
HRB: We've been an excellent side on the road (6-1-3) and our success comes from playing intelligently. I wouldn't say we are aggressive, but the team seems to always be able to pick its spots early in the game and jump on the opposition. I think we'll likely sit back a little more and let Red Bulls come after us in an effort to then expose them on the counter. RBNY has a tendency to get themselves out of position when the fullbacks move up the field, and I would expect us to be looking for situations to get Jack, Villa, or Tommy out and in space on a counter. We have been excellent on the counterattack this year, and it's been one of our keys to success this season on the road.
Predicted XI & scoreline?
Predicted XI: Saunders; White, Brillant, Hernandez, Allen; Pirlo, Iraola, Lampard; McNamara, Villa, Harrison
Scoreline: I see this as a tense and cagey affair that produces more cautions than goals - Score this match 1-1 as both come away disappointed at not getting all three points
You can read Once a Metro's answers to Hudson River Blue's questions over here.