New York City Football Club welcome Chicago Fire to Citi Field on Sunday afternoon.
Here’s the Keys to the Match presented by Tri-State Ford…
Home Field Advantage
The start of 2022 for NYCFC can be defined into two chapters – a long spell on the road and a long spell at home.
That stretch of games at home produced four wins and one draw, with the backing of NYCFC fans a great advantage to both players and staff. The fact the team were able to secure a midweek road win against D.C. United was brilliant, and now the chance to capitalize on that bonus comes this Sunday.
Ronny Deila has consistently praised the role of the supporters in motivating the players to perform at the highest level, and he issued a similar rallying call on Wednesday evening. When the fans and players come together something magical happens, and hopefully the same will be true against Chicago.
One of the undoubted major talking points for Chicago Fire this offseason was the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri.
The Swiss international has played for some of Europe’s top clubs, and brings an impressive pedigree with him to Illinois. Although Shaqiri has spent the majority of his career as a winger, head coach Ezra Hendrickson has chosen to play him as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Shaqiri’s dribbling ability and creativity make him a major threat for Chicago in open play, while he is also a danger from set pieces with his deliveries. NYCFC will need to be wary of that threat. If Maxi Moralez returns to the fold for Sunday the game may well be decided by which talented number 10 imparts the greatest influence on proceedings, and NYCFC’s defenders can help Maxi by quieting his opposite number.
NYCFC may currently be on an impressive undefeated streak, but nestled within that run of form is four straight clean sheets.
If the Boys in Blue can do it again on Sunday they will have broken a club record for consecutive shutouts. That achievement would be a testament to the whole team’s defensive work from Sean Johnson in goal all the way to Taty Castellanos up top.
The goal is there, now it’s about achieving it.