1. NYCFC has risen through the rankings over the past weeks, how has the team’s form been going into the end of the season and the playoffs?
NYCFC runs hot and cold. Maybe you heard the consensus that NYCFC is the best team in MLS? The science is sound. But the truth is we’re an operatic team with the capacity to fail dramatically—we can outplay the Revolution, and we could lose to a rec league team. September was a nightmare, late October was a dream. To answer your question, we seem to have the wind at our backs right now—we’re in fine form, looking good, feeling good.
2. City is second in the Eastern Conference for goals scored: where is their offensive strength and how do they punish defenses?
This is the year of Taty Castellanos. He became more ruthless as the season went on, less wasteful in front of the goal, and there’s good reason why he’s in the lead for the Golden Boot. But more than that, he works really hard. Castellanos has nine assists—he not only scores, he feeds other attackers such as Talles Magno (who is adjusting to MLS), and Santi Rodriguez (who is the future of the franchise). Castellanos is having a breakout season but we have seven, eight players who can hurt you. When we’re at our best, our attack is balanced, powerful, and relentless.
3. NYC also has one of the better defenses in the Eastern Conference, who is someone to watch on defense, and where do you think NYC’s weakness lies?
Alexander Callens has grown into a monster center back—no wonder he’s now a starter for the Peru national football team. As for problems, our biggest weakness has become a strength: When starting right back Anton Tinnerhom was injured and James Sands was slotted into his place, the defense essentially became three center backs, freeing others to build the attack. The worry at first was that Sands was being played out of position, but this forced change has become a tactical success—and one of the reasons behind our rise in form.
That said, NYCFC has the capacity to give away a goal, the junkier the better. We have at least one boneheaded mistake for us for every game. The question is whether the Union can take advantage.
4. Who will be out for New York City FC against the Philadelphia Union?
It looks like Tinnerholm is out for the season. Nicolás Acevedo, Gudmundur Thórarinsson, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi might be out as well—they add to our depth, which is nice but not essential. We’re fully stacked.
5. What is your score prediction?
My prediction? With all due respect, NYCFC wins 2-0. Castellanos will score and take the Golden Boot, then we’ll find another goal. Don’t forget, the five-a-side field at Yankee Stadium is our secret weapon—your Union players are accustomed to a regulation pitch, with even turf and parallel lines and corners that have right-angles. Playing at Subaru Park has made you soft.