New York City FC has played the fewest matches among Eastern Conference competitors but could find itself atop the heap after Saturday afternoon’s contest against the visiting New England Revolution.
NYCFC (14-5-8, 50 points), which already has punched its postseason ticket, is one point behind East-leading Philadelphia with two matches in hand.
Saturday’s match with the Revolution (10-9-9, 39 points) will see both clubs short-handed due to a slew of international commitments. However, NYCFC will begin a pivotal three-to-four week stretch without injured star striker Heber.
“When it’s the quadricep, it’s not easy because you have a high risk to get injured again,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said Thursday. “It is what it is. This is soccer and sometimes it happens.”
Heber scored his team-leading 14th goal early in the first half on Saturday before sustaining the injury in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, who has 10 goals in 17 starts, will be looked upon to pick up the slack in the absence of the 28-year-old Brazilian.
“I think it’s time for Taty again. He’s shown some quality this season and he’s been showing he’s a really good player,” fullback Anton Tinnerholm said. “Maybe we’re going to change the formation. I don’t know, let’s see what we’re gonna do. But it’s a crucial time of the season and we want nine points this week, and it starts on Saturday.”
The Revolution have picked up steam with points in each of their past four matches (1-0-3), including one following a late goal in a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC last Saturday.
Gustavo Bou extended his goal-scoring streak to four matches by netting the equalizer in the 86th minute with a 20-yard shot that squirted past goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
New England, which sits two points shy of the fifth-place New York Red Bulls, has struggled away from home this season with a 3-4-6 mark. Alas, the Revolution improved to 2-2-2 in their last six trips to NYCFC following a 1-0 win last season.
“We’re going to go to New York, and hopefully we can do what we did last year and get three points there,” New England goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “Then we’ll worry about Orlando. We’re just going to take it one game at a time. That’s all we can do.”
—Field Level Media