NYCFC set to face Montreal Impact on Sunday

Since the start of June, New York City FC has won five of eight matches to roar into the Eastern …

Since the start of June, New York City FC has won five of eight matches to roar into the Eastern Conference playoff race. Andrea Pirlo’s debut could not have gone smoother in last week’s 5-3 victory over Orlando City SC and up next for the rejuvenated squad will be Saturday’s 2 p.m. tilt with the Montreal Impact (7-8-3) at Yankee Stadium.

NYCFC (6-9-6), Montreal and Orlando are all tied for the final playoff spot in the East. With its postseason future at stake, here are some factors to keep in mind entering Saturday’s match and beyond for NYCFC.

Still waiting on LampardFans are understandably growing frustrated with the delayed debut of English star Frank Lampard. The 37-year-old English midfielder was supposed to debut July 12 against Toronto FC, but he has yet to play due to a strained calf.

“As coach said, we’re not 100% sure [about Lampard’s status for Saturday’s match],” midfielder Kwadwo Poku said Wednesday at NYCFC’s practice facility in Purchase. “We’re gonna take it easy, but we really need him here.”

Pirlo’s effect

In just 33 minutes, the Maestro made an immediate impact against Orlando. While not credited with any assists, Pirlo’s accurate passes were the start of most NYCFC attacks in the second half to help ignite two goals.

“As everybody knows, he’s a fantastic player — a true legend,” Poku said. “We try to give him the ball as much as possible so he could create passes for us.”

Integrating new faces

Pirlo and Lampard aren’t the club’s only new acquisitions. Defensive backs Andoni Iraola and Angelino were brought over a couple weeks ago, while newly signed Colombian center-back Jefferson Mena debuted against Orlando.

“It’s really hard to adopt because we all came from different places, all played with different players,” Poku said. “We have to adjust to each other, know what kind of moves everyone makes with the ball. It takes time but we are getting there.”

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