New York City FC: Three Players to Watch Against the Portland Timbers

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

With a league-best 17 points and a seven-game unbeaten run to start the season, New York City FC will need big performances from three of their players if they want to stay out of the loss column.

New York City FC is off to a flying start to the season, recording a league-best 5-2-0 (W-D-L) record to start the 2018 MLS season. Maintaining that franchise-record unbeaten run, however, will be quite the challenge when the Boys in Blue raid Providence Park this Sunday. The Portland Timbers have one of the most hostile home environments in Major League Soccer and this could be the game where the Citizens finally slip. However, the following three players will ultimately decide whether or not NYCFC’s unbeaten run continues when the final whistle blows Sunday evening.

Maxime Chanot

Defenders rarely get the spotlight in the game of soccer, but all fans should keep an eye on Maxime Chanot Sunday evening. The Luxembourg international has been the anchor of an NYCFC defense that’s conceded the least goals in the Eastern Conference. Coming off a week in which he was named to the MLS Team of the Week, Chanot will need to maintain the excellent form that earned him that honor.

While they’ve struggled to start the year, the Timbers possess one of the league’s most dangerous attacking trios in Fanendo Adi, Sebastian Blanco, and reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri. Chanot will definitely have his hands full trying to contain those three, but if he succeeds in limiting the damage each one of them can do, then NYCFC has a good chance to escape Portland with at least a point.

David Villa

David Villa had an explosive start to the 2018 season, notching his first goal of the season in the club’s home opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Unfortunately, El Capitan missed the following three matches due to a calf injury he suffered in training. After returning in a late-match cameo against Real Salt Lake, Villa finally made his return known to the league by slamming home a penalty in the club’s 2-2 away draw against Atlanta United last weekend.

Despite two solid outings, it’s still unknown what Villa’s level of fitness is considering he’s only played as a substitute since his return. However, Villa is living proof that form may be temporary, but class is permanent. The Timbers are off to a terrible start and have conceded the most goals in the league this season. This match offers the perfect opportunity for Villa to shake off the rust and continue to add to his account this season.

Rodney Wallace

Rodney Wallace is probably the player that NYCFC fans should focus on the most this upcoming match. The Costa Rica international fell out of favor with manager Patrick Vieira and was replaced in the starting XI in the third match of the season by fellow winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Wallace hasn’t started a match since, but now that Tajouri-Shradi is out with a hamstring injury for the foreseeable future, Wallace figures to retake his old starting job out on the wing.

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New York City FC fans know by now that Wallace doesn’t look like the same player he was last season. The winger seems like he’s moving in slow motion on the pitch and he doesn’t make the right attacking runs all too often. Wing play is all too crucial to the club’s attacking philosophy, so Wallace is bound to see plenty of touches against Portland. Hopefully, the time he’s spent off the pitch has given him enough time to freshen up and get his head on straight.