Competition: Major League Soccer – New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire
Venue: Yankee Stadium – Friday, September 23 – 20:00 ET (01:00 BST)
Match Odds: NYCFC 3/4 – Draw 5/2 – Chicago 7/2
NYCFC have just four games to play as they look to challenge Toronto FC for the Eastern Conference title. They are currently sitting third, two points off the Reds who have also played one game fewer.
The major positive for the franchise is that they’re heading to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time, with a top-six finish all but guaranteed now. A win on Friday would absolutely confirm that.
They come into the game off the back of Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Dallas and have now only won two of their last seven MLS games.
Chicago Fire have also won two of their last seven but it hasn’t been enough to lift them off the bottom of the standings. They have six games to play but need to make up a nine-point gap if they are to somehow make the top six over the next month.
A playoff berth looks extremely unlikely but it’s important that the Fire finish the season in the best way possible so that they can try and enter the 2017 season with a platform to build from.
The trip to Yankee Stadium on Friday will be the first of three consecutive away games in a week for Chicago so it’s sure to be a tough seven days for the squad.
These two sides met on the opening day of the season at Toyota Park, with NYCFC winning a thrilling game 4-3 before a 0-0 draw followed at Yankee Stadium in April.
Patrick Vieira is set to be without Frank Lampard for around a month as he has been ruled out with a calf injury. On top of that, Connor Brandt, Shannon Gomez and Maxime Chanot are also sidelined. Khiry Shelton will be pushing for a start after coming off the bench to score on Saturday.
Chicago Fire are to be without Alex Morrell, while Michael de Leeuw is a doubt. Armenian striker David Arshakyan will be hoping to start up front once again, with David Accam attacking from the left wing.
NYCFC’s last five: W/L/W/L/D
Chicago Fire’s last five: D/L/W/L/D
Key Stat: Chicago Fire have lost 10 of their last 11 away games in MLS.
Key Player: David Villa – The NYCFC striker has enjoyed a fine season but will be disappointed he has fallen behind Bradley Wright-Phillips in the MLS Golden Boot race. Villa has 17 for the season but has only managed to score one in his last four. But a home clash against the league’s bottom side should present opportunities for the Spaniard.
New York City FC 2-1 Chicago Fire – New York City are heavy favourites to win Friday’s game and should do so, but it might not be as easy as some are predicting. Chicago have been putting in some solid displays in recent weeks, despite still being at the foot of the standings, and so a tight contest is expected at Yankee Stadium here. Still, NYCFC should have too much for the Fire.