2019 MLS Week 18 Preview — New York City FC (6-8-1) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (8-5-6)

Looking every bit the MLS All-Star, Maxi Moralez and New York City FC attempt to extend their franchise-record unbeaten streak to 14 matches in all competitions Wednesday night when they host the Seattle Sounders.

Moralez will be the Pigeons’ lone representative when the league’s best face Spanish side Atletico Madrid in Orlando at the end of the month, but his scintillating play is the primary reason NYCFC (6-8-1) have been able to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Argentine converted penalties on either side of halftime and set up goals by Valentin Castellanos six minutes apart in the second half Saturday when New York City FC rallied to a 4-2 win over conference-leading Philadelphia. Moralez has five goals and eight assists in a six-match point streak in league play as the Bronx Blues pulled within six points of the Union.

“There were many opportunities we created but unfortunately we didnt have the right timing,” Moralez told the team’s official website regarding the difference between the first and second halves. “We didn’t play right and I believe that’s why we went to first half losing. Second half we were better and played better.”

NYCFC have won four on the trot overall and are 8-5-0 in all competitions since their lone defeat, a 4-0 loss at Toronto on March 29. Coach Dome Torrent was especially pleased with Castellanos, who has taken on the role of primary striker with Heber injured.

“You know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches,” Torrent said. “I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play.”

The Bronx Blues are 4-4-0 at home in all competitions, with 13 of their 17 goals at home coming in their last three matches.

Seattle (8-5-6) halted a four-match losing streak and three-match skid in league play with a 1-0 victory over Vancouver on Saturday. Kelvin Leerdam’s goal in the 96th minute provided all three points as he slotted a right-footed shot from 12 yards inside the left post after a pass from Brad Smith.

The right back, who had just one goal last season, has five in 16 contests this term as Seattle found some offense while top striker Jordan Morris and playmaker Cristian Roldan are with the U.S. National Team at the Gold Cup.

“The ball was on the left side. Brad had a combination, I believe with Harry (Shipp),” Leerdam said of his match-winner to Seattle’s official website. “I don’t know if he tried to shoot or pass but the ball came to me and I just turned to the goal and shot. Simple.”

Morris and Roldan are still on international duty since the U.S. won Sunday night, which could mean a second consecutive league start for 16-year-old Danny Leyva. He had an audacious 25-yard chip for a goal disallowed due to VAR, but the third-youngest player in MLS history to start a match clearly impressed.

“(Leyva is) a good player,” Leerdam said. “He sees the game … The coach gave him confidence to let him play 90 minutes, I think that says enough.”

The sides have split four matches, with the Sounders running out 3-1 winners at home last year.

(Valentin Castellanos photo courtesy Valentin Castellanos official Twitter account)

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