Ronald Matarrita out 4-6 weeks; how New York City FC compensates

New York City FC absorbed two blows this week, with injuries befalling defender Ronald Matarrita and winger Khiry Shelton. Head coach Patrick Vieira again finds himself forced to mix up his lineup as City (3-2-1, 10 points) struggles to gain momentum.

Matarrita suffered a high ankle sprain during training and will be sidelined four to six weeks, the soccer team announced Thursday. Meanwhile, Shelton hurt his hamstring last Friday against the Philadelphia Union and will also be on the bench for at least a month.

Named to the most recent MLS Team of the Week, Matarrita is an integral part of NYCFC’s defensive formation. A starter in all six games this season, the 22-year-old Costa Rican put his value on display last week, notching his third assist of the year on a Jack Harrison goal en route to a 2-0 win over Philly.

Both players hope to be back in time for NYCFC’s May 17 game against Real Salt Lake, according to the team. In the interim, Vieira will have to plug the holes, especially for Matarrita, who tallied 530 minutes in the season’s first seven weeks.

City’s uneven defense will be tested with some of the league’s highest scoring squads on the horizon. Expect Ethan White, who has started four games this season, to see additional time on the pitch.

If necessary, Vieira hasn’t shied away from using unconventional formations in the past despite not yielding much success. City played to a draw last season with Toronto FC while employing a 3-4-3 formation, and in an effort to catch DC United off guard two weeks ago, Vieira tried a 3-2-2-3 to no avail.

With more depth on the wings, Shelton, 23, is still considered a top prospect but has struggled to see the field, playing 56 minutes before his injury. While his absence gives forwards Jonathan Lewis and Sean Ugo Okoli an opportunity for extra time, City stalwarts like David Villa will continue to carry the load.

NYCFC returns to Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a rematch against Orlando City SC, who defeated New York in the season opener in Florida.