The Seattle Sounders visit New York City FC on Wednesday (4 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) in Week 18 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Gustav Svensson vs. Maxi Moralez
Svensson put on a masterclass in containing Vancouver’s Inbeom Hwang on Saturday. The Swedish midfielder will have an even tougher task on Wednesday as he goes toe-to-toe with NYCFC’s Moralez, who leads the league with 11 assists from 13 starts. A diminutive, clever attacking midfielder, Moralez’s excellent form of late has coincided with New York City’s surge up the standings, as he’s tallied five goals and eight assists in his last six starts.
The Argentine maestro thrives in tight spaces, stringing together intricate pass-and-move sequences with his surrounding teammates. Svensson will need to track his movement all afternoon, as City’s attack flows through their creative midfielder.
Henry Wingo vs. Ben Sweat
In just his second MLS start of his career, Wingo showcased exactly why he was such a highly touted prospect at the University of Washington. The Homegrown midfielder absolutely torched Whitecaps left back Ali Adnan, who is on loan from Italian Serie A side Udinese, all evening, contributing three key passes and two successful dribbles.
Whether New York City FC lines up in a back three or back four, Wingo will get plenty of opportunities to take on Sweat 1-v-1 out wide. Given the space restrictions on Yankee Stadium’s converted soccer field, the Shoreline native’s ability to drop his shoulder and create separation with a burst of pace will be critical on Wednesday. If he can get the best of his individual duel with Sweat, the likes of Justin Dhillon or Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez will get the service they require to score.
Saad Abdul-Salaam vs. Valentin Castellanos
Questions of sample size aside, Castellanos has been a dynamic component of NYCFC’s forward line this season. Capable of lining up as either a winger or a striker, the 20-year-old Argentine has been on fire recently, pitching in three goals and an assist in his last three MLS appearances.
A right back for most of his professional career, Abdul-Salaam has emerged as a reliable option at center back for the Sounders. That transformation will be put to the test on Wednesday, as keeping Castellanos quiet is an unenviable job. The NYCFC forward has excellent shooting technique and can score wonder-goals from distance. With the tight confines at Yankee Stadium, Abdul-Salaam will need to defend on the front foot, immediately closing down Castellanos if he drops into midfield to receive the ball in space.