VANCOUVER, BC – OK, so we know New York City FC has some star power.
Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, and David Villa all travelled to Vancouver and look set to feature on Saturday when Whitecaps FC host NYCFC for the first time (7 p.m. PT on TSN1).
These guys need no introduction. But how do they stack up against the league-leading ‘Caps?
First, let’s take a look at how they compare to Vancouver’s Designated Players.
Both teams opted to use their DP slots on a striker and two midfielders, though Carl Robinson has gone for the “hidden gem” route – a philosophy he recently discussed with MLSsoccer.com
Let’s focus on New York’s trio for now, though.
All three of them play in the middle of the park – Villa as a lone striker, Lampard as an attacking midfielder, and Pirlo as a deep-lying playmaker. Safe to say that’s where the game will be won or lost on Saturday night (though wingers Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera might have something to say about that).
In terms of production, Villa is the biggest threat.
The Spaniard has easily been New York’s MVP so far this season. He has 16 goals and eight assists in 26 appearances, including a goal and an assist last week against San Jose. This should make for a juicy matchup with Whitecaps FC centre back Kendall Waston, who has played himself into the conversation as the best centre back in MLS.
Villa won’t necessarily overpower Waston with his athletic ability. He probably won’t see a ton of the ball, either – he only had 23 touches last week against San Jose. What makes him most dangerous, however, is his movement and finishing ability.
Give him an inch, he’ll take a mile.
While Villa is New York’s most potent offensive player, the player who will likely be pulling the strings is Pirlo. Last week against San Jose, he had a team-high 86 touches. The next closest player had 58.
It will be interesting to see how the ‘Caps try to limit his impact.
Unlike most playmakers in MLS, he doesn’t play as an attacking midfielder. Instead, he sits as one of two central midfielders in front of the back line. In theory, that gives him a lot more time and space on the ball because he will be further away from Vancouver’s defensive midfielders.
Here’s a look at all Pirlo’s touches in last week’s game:
Do the ‘Caps sit back and take away his passing options? Or do they try to stop it at the source and press him high up the pitch? Either way, I think it’s safe to say midfielder Matias Laba will have a big part to play for Whitecaps FC, but with Lampard and Villa roaming around as well, it will have to be a collective defensive effort.
Kickoff for Saturday's match is set for 7 p.m. PT at BC Place (TSN1 and TSN 1410).
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