After a rough pair of 2-1 road losses, the Portland Timbers are returning home to the cozy confines of Providence Park today to take on Eastern Conference side New York City FC. The visitors are coming to town on a three game undefeated streak and have outscored their opposition 5-2 in their last two matches.
To get a feel for this team from far-away lands, we talked to Jake Gofman of Hudson River Blue, SB Nation's NYCFC site, and he was kind enough to answer our questions about the side. You can find our answers to Jake's questions here.
David Villa is one of the league's leading scorers and one of the most well known names in world soccer, but who else should Timbers fans be worried about in the New York attack this weekend?
Villa has been spectacular this year, no doubt. He really has lived up to everything a massive DP signing should aspire to accomplish (unlike a certain someone who we'll discuss later). So when you talk about New York's attack, you have to begin with Villa.
In year two of the NYC FC experience, we have several players that are beginning to mesh well around a Villa-centric attack. Most notably, I think you have to consider Tommy McNamara as someone who is really emerging as an excellent attacking midfielder. Although he's not fast or particularly athletic, Tommy is the hardest working player on the pitch for NYC every weekend, tracking back to defend his wing and playing an almost pseudo-number 10 role when the team is in attack. He makes dangerous runs and is confident receiving the ball in a crowd, and he has the vision to deliver the killer ball (likely to Villa). Best of all, once in a while Tommy unleashes an outrageous bender from 25-30 yards out that hits the back of the net. Tommy has become a fan favorite in New York and Timbers supporters should watch out for him anytime he's on the ball.
Federico Bravo and Mikey Lopez have been racking up the fouls and yellow cards in the NYCFC midfield this year. With Bravo a new arrival and Lopez getting his first chance as a starter, how have the pair changed the New York midfield?
In our three man midfield with Bravo, Lopez and Pirlo, the former two have become a Bash Brothers-like pair that insulate against Pirlo's defensive issues. In these roles, the fouls and yellows have followed as you might expect. Bravo has been an excellent addition on loan from Boca Juniors and the strongest defender of the two, frequently thwarting attacks just as they're beginning. Lopez, meanwhile has great stamina and covers a huge area in our midfield, playing alongside Pirlo in attack and covering up next to Bravo when defending.
The pair's addition to our midfield has improved our defensive shape and structure at the expense of some possession and opportunities. Tactically it looks like a 4-3-3 on paper but in reality Tommy Mac has been dropping to play midfield and adding more continuity to our play. If we do grab a lead, Vieira is not opposed to subbing in to put five at the back to defend the lead. I'm not exactly sure if this is the long-term solution for the team on the road, but right now it is getting us results, and I expect us to continue to tinker with the personnel as the season progresses.
How has the absence of Frank Lampard affected New York? How will his return be received by the NYCFC fans?
Given his performances last season, Frank's absence has not hurt the team at all, only because he performed so poorly last season in the games he played. I think if you consider that he still might have something left in the tank from what we saw two years ago while at loan at Manchester City, you would be inclined to say that you wanted a player like that on the field. Unfortunately, we have not seen that side of Frank, and his injuries have put him out of sight and out of mind.
The good news is that Frank is once more training, on a limited basis, with the first team. This news came only days after BBC announced he would be part of the team that was going to be covering the Euro Cup, which infuriated many fans. He is a polarizing figure right now among NYC FC supporters, with many interested in seeing Frankie never play another game, retire, and come off the books at NYC. Personally, I would like to Frank play once more, but the longer he stays on the bench, the more abrasive the fans will be when he finally does return.