New York City FC continues its unbeaten season back home to face Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, but what’s most impressive is what could be yet to come with a full team.
The Blues’ injury report upgraded striker David Villa and midfielder Alex Ring to questionable Tuesday. Defender Ronald Matarrita also is expected to be available. Without them, NYCFC (4-0-1, 13 points) has won in every imaginable way. It indicates a turning point for the franchise.
Questions remain regarding who Villa and Ring would replace if they play against Real Salt Lake (5-2-2, 7 points). Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Maxi Moralez lead the team in scoring with three goals each. Tajouri-Shradi has taken full advantage of added responsibility. Moralez already is halfway to his scoring total from last season.
The list goes on with quality players — Anton Tinnerholm, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Alexander Callens and Jesus Medina. All and more have made immediate and important impacts as the Blues surged to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Replacing them is a difficult decision for manager Patrick Vieira, who has pushed all the right buttons in offseason signings and on-pitch decision making. Villa likely would replace Jo Inge Berget, who was a late addition against San Jose when Villa couldn’t start after an injury tweak. Ebenezer Ofori may be the odd man out in favor of Ring.
By the end of this week, the questions could be put to rest by themselves. The Blues are coming off a break of more than a week, making it rare to see players so rested. That’ll change after two games this week; NYCFC also heads to Atlanta on Sunday.
In a long season, lineup questions can resolve themselves as players wear down. For this juggernaut team, there appear to be no bad options in the short term.