New York City FC will face several tough tests at — or close to — home

New York City FC continues to live in the extremes of being unbeatable at home and a shell of itself on the road.

Luckily for the Blues, a three-game MLS stretch takes place in the Bronx, beginning Saturday against fifth-place Orlando City SC. But, if recent events are any indication, they’ll need more quick starts to maintain its presence among the league’s elite.

David Villa scored in the sixth minute against the Houston Dynamo on the road last Friday. The early energy didn’t last, however, and NYCFC fell silent in a 3-1 defeat.

“The game went from 1-1, and then we went down 2-1, and at 3-1 it was pretty much done and dusted,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said afterward. “That was the storyline of the game, we were in it and then it got away from us.”

If NYCFC (7-3-3, 24 points) isn’t careful, that storyline can define a season. After Orlando (6-5-1, 19 points), NYCFC visits the New York Red Bulls across the Hudson River in the U.S. Open Cup and returns home for Atlanta United FC in MLS play. These next three opponents encompass three of the biggest challenges the team has faced to this point — an early-season home victory against Orlando, a road draw against Atlanta and a lopsided loss to the Red Bulls in New Jersey.

Now, the Blues will go through each test once again within a week of each other at a time when players are missing time for World Cup preparations. While only two of the games count for MLS standings, these kinds of stretches can drain a team. On the other side is a home match with struggling Toronto FC.

NYCFC will have to preserve the strength of Villa, Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in particular to get to that point. If Jo Inge Berget and Jesus Medina are provided more key opportunities, the club can keep its footing.