One of the great things about SB Nation is the ability to collaborate with bloggers from other clubs. While we don't often have many options in that regard with only one NASL blog, The US Open Cup often provides the opportunity to face MLS sides, however, and that gives us the opportunity to get to know our opponents from people that follow them more closely than I do.
On Tuesday, Raf Noboa y Rivera of Hudson River Blue took some time to answer a few questions that we had about their club. Here's what I asked, and the answers Raf gave me:
As far as results go, it has been a rough start for NYCFC, though things have been looking better of late. Is this about what you expected before the season kicked off, and is this recent winning streak a sign of things to come?
It’s certainly what I expected. Historically, expansion teams started from scratch in MLS are atrocious. Only Real Salt Lake has had any consistent success. The rest — Toronto FC, Philadelphia, Chivas USA — are either mired in futility or in Chivas’ case, no longer exist. At the very least, the idea that New York City would be successful straight from the start wasn’t based on the historical records of expansion sides.
Maybe the team’s starting to put things together. Certainly, their most recent win — 3-1 over Montreal — was their best game of the season. But the Impact and Philadelphia are fellow MLS stragglers. I’d want to see New York City put similar performances against better MLS teams — like Columbus — before saying that the corner’s been turned.
We all know David Villa and Mix Diskerud, but who else (if anyone) should the Cosmos be worried about heading into Wednesday's match?
Tommy McNamara’s become a dangerous player for the Blues. His creativity and work-rate have given New York City’s midfield the kind of cohesion they desperately needed. Kwadwo Poku has provided needed jolts off the bench. Mehdi Ballouchy seems to have finally become a solid midfield contributor. Forward Patrick Mullins has paired well with Villa up top.
Speaking of Villa and Mix, have they been as good as advertised?
Villa, yes, although he’s been hampered by some nagging injuries that have seen him lose significant playing time. Mix, on the other hand, hasn’t been. He’s been largely anonymous this season. This is likely because for large stretches of it, he’s been asked to play at the base of an "empty bucket" 4-4-2, otherwise known as a 4-2-2-2. As I put it to Dynamo Theory: You ever watched a puppy deal with multiple toys in their play area? You ever seen that pup dashing madly to and fro from toy to toy? That’s Mix Diskerud playing box-to-box midfielder. He runs all over the midfield; then he’s helping out the backline. Now he’s up front! But to what end? It’s unclear.
What ends up happening is that Diskerud tries to do so much, he ends up doing nothing at all.
In the last couple of games, Kreis has lined up Diskerud on the right, where I think he’s a lot more effective. He has been. So I’d expect that continue.
Who, if anyone, are you most worried about in the Cosmos lineup?
Marcos Senna and Raul. Raul’s been really effective playing in the hole below the two strikers, where he can use his vision and still be able to score. Senna, even now, is fantastic at dictating play; and I maintain that he’s the best dead-ball striker in North America.
The Cosmos play on turf, and it doesn't appear to be the most forgiving surface out there. Is that a cause for concern?
Yes, but not because it’s turf. It’s a concern because it’s crappy turf, laid over concrete. It’s the kind of turf that old NASL teams used to play on. I’m amazed that players like Senna and Raul have managed to avoid injury on it; you have to respect the Cosmos’ training staff for that. I dread seeing what it’ll do to someone like Villa, assuming he plays.
The Red Bulls didn't play their best XI in the US Open Cup last season due to fixture congestion, do you expect NYCFC to treat thi match a bit more seriously than their New Jersey rivals did in 2014?
Yes. Jason Kreis was asked about it after the Montreal game, and he said as much. That said, he also mentioned that several players whom you’d expect to start if that was the case might not, thanks to unspecific "knocks" they sustained, so…who knows?
Here’s the thing: I don’t think it would make a difference. I think this Cosmos team is their best version yet. It’s a team that’s built to win now. They’re nine games unbeaten. They’re cohesive in a way that New York City simply isn’t. They’re playing at home, on a surface that they’ve become familiar with. Player for player, they’re either just as good as New York City, if not better. It doesn’t get mentioned enough: on a team with Xavi, Iniesta, Fernando Torres, and yes, David Villa, Marcos Senna was the captain.
To me, that all adds up to a 3-1 win for the New York Cosmos.