New York City FC has scored 23 goals in 14 games. That’s pretty good, but there are a few underlying numbers to suggest it might not be sustainable. Meanwhile, the Union have 32 goals in 18 games but might have a more explosive offense than you think.
NYC’s big producers — Brazilian striker Heber, Alexandru Mitrita, and Maxi Moralez — are all outperforming their expected goals this season. Meanwhile, Kacper Przybylko is producing shots and xG at an elite level but is stuck at five tallies on the season.
The winner of Saturday’s match, then, may come down to whether Przybylko and Heber continue to live on opposite sides of American Soccer Analysis’ xG model.
New York City is going to attack at home; they have a dynamic set of midfielders supported by the intelligence and versatility of Alex Ring, and up front they can move Mitrita into a number of dangerous spots behind Heber. Valentin Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi combine up the right side and both provide a threat to goal, meaning the Union will need to figure out how to exploit Kai Wagner’s attacking power without sacrificing protection up the German fullback’s side.
On the other flank, Ray Gaddis will need to play a smart two-way game in order to force Mitrita deep.
Marco Fabián is likely to return to the team in some capacity on Saturday, so one intriguing storyline will be figuring out how the Mexican International fits into Philly’s system. The Union turned up the heat on New England on Wednesday by moving to a 4-2-3-1 shape, and Fabián can operate underneath the striker in that formation. However, that would leave either Jamiro Monteiro or Ale Bedoya squeezed out or pushed to a winger role. Alternatively, the Union could stick with a 4-4-2 diamond and simple drop Fabián into Brenden Aaronson’s position. This solves one issue but leaves an odd one on the table: What if the Union are a better team out of the 4-2-3-1? And if so, how does Fabián fit?
Another potential advantage of the 4-2-3-1? It would allow Fafa Picault to slot into a winger role, where he has been the most productive American winger in MLS over the previous two seasons.
Overall, this showdown between Eastern Conference heavyweights should be a huge measuring stick for both sides as they open the back half of their seasons.