Nairobi — After the match against Sofapaka on Wednesday afternoon in Kisumu, Gor Mahia's 18-year old left back Erick 'Marcelo' Ouma will be out of contract.
However, head coach Jose Marcello 'Ze Maria' Ferreira has said he would want the Kakamega High School alumni to be part of his squad for the second leg saying he still has a lot to offer the club and is not in any mood to let him go.
"I have talked to the club, they know what I want and I have let them know I want Eric to remain with us. He is a very good player with a bright future and I would not want to lose his services before the season ends," 'Ze Maria' told Capital Sport.
Ouma has been impressive having completely taken over as the preferred left back choice ahead of experienced Rwandese international Abouba Sibomana.
He put up a man-of-the-match performance on Sunday evening as Gor dispatched Mathare United 2-0 and his every touch of the ball was cheered loudly by the Gor faithful who took to social media to lavish the youngster with praise.
Gor's arch rivals AFC Leopards have been trailing the left back with the aim of luring him over to the den but with the love being shown on him by the green army, he is most likely going to pen a new deal with the 15-time league champions.
"It is true, Leopards approached me saying they want to sign me, but I have not committed anything to them. We have been talking to Gor and they have tabled an offer. I am still looking at it and if we agree on the terms, I wouldn't mind staying over. However I just want a short term contract probably six months or one year at most," Ouma said.
Capital Sport understands the youngster has a pending European offer and a long term contract would jeopardize the deal.
He has been called up to the senior national team for the very first time and will have to compete with returnee Aboud Omar. Ouma, nick-named Marcelo after Real Madrid's Brazilian left back Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior believes he can make the national team left back position permanently his.
"I believe in myself, that is the biggest thing. What has been pushing me is working hard and the coach showing faith in me each game," Ouma opined.
Meanwhile, 'Ze Maria' is confident that his side can successfully defend the SportPesa Premier League title after rising from the ashes to move to within two points of leaders Tusker FC.
If they win against Sofapaka on Wednesday in Kisumu and Tusker loses to Leopards in Machakos on the same day then they will finish the first leg top of the standings.
"I think it is not much of what I have done. It is these players who should be praised. I have a very good group of players who work hard and push themselves and they use the small keys I give them to unlock their potential," Ze Maria said.
"We are playing well, improving daily and we put in a good performance against a big team, Mathare United and it is such victories that will make us defend our title," the Brazilian tactician added.
He has at the same time hinted at possible additions in the June transfer window, though ruling out massive changes. Among the areas he wants to strengthen is his striking force with Gor's former striker Meddie Kagere topping the list.
Though the coach says he has never watched Kagere play, he admits to have received good reports about his single season donning the green and white of Gor last season.
After some unusual choices, Patrick Vieira's side has settled on a consistent formation
Most of the time, these pieces coveringD.C. United'snext opponent refer to a pretty familiar formation, with an emphasis on possession, or pressure, or direct play being the real difference. That isn't the case withNew York City FC, whose head coach Patrick Vieira has been unafraid to attempt new things all season. He spent plenty of time in the preseason sending NYCFC out in an old-fashioned W-M formation (we'd call it a 3223 today), and then when the games got real he tweaked it into what most resembled a 3241. It made an otherwise pretty weak NYCFC roster worth watching, at least.
However, in the past month, Vieira has stuck with the more common 433. It's easy to see why: NYCFC doesn't have the defenders to effectively play out of a back three, and when push comes to shove it's hard to do anything with six midfielders except be bogged down in the midfield. At first, this formation still retained some strange traits (namely, a midfield trio in which Andrea Pirlo and Mix Diskerud were tasked with significant defensive duties), but of late Vieira has started to make a little more sense. The 433 has a proper #6 - Federico Bravo - protecting the back four, and Pirlo being stationary has become less of an issue.
Here's how it should look this weekend:
Josh Saunders will start in goal, and that's good news for United. Saunders was already not that great of a goalkeeper in the best of times, and right now he seems to have no confidence whatsoever. His decision-making process has seen him out of position a few times, and he's let in more than his fair share of soft goals. The Black-and-Red need to make sure they're testing him early and often.
Right back has been a problem for NYCFC. Spanish veteran Andoni Iraola was signed last year to be the starter, but has spent more time injured than not. RJ Allen, after recovering from an injury of his own, scored against Montreal only to depart injured less than 20 minutes later. The ankle sprain he suffered against the Impact will keep him out on Sunday.
That leaves former United homegrown defender Ethan White, who as DC fans likely recall is not really a right back. He can fill in, but in terms of technique he's not that comfortable coming forward and putting in crosses. As a natural center back, White is also not particularly smooth in terms of judging angles as a right back. United might not be able to beat him athletically down the flank, but they should be able to pull him out of position.
Central defense is also a problem, though at least in this case the Pigeons have some natural fits to call on. Frenchman Frederic Brillant arrived after spending some time at lesser Belgian clubs, and has not looked like a diamond in the rough since joining NYCFC. The speed of play in MLS seems to catch him off-guard a handful of times a game, and he doesn't have any particularly great physical gifts to cover it up.
Partnering him is MLS veteran Jason Hernandez. Hernandez has decent speed and plenty of MLS experience, but he's been the kind of player who starts for bad teams in this league for a long time. It's mostly down to his positioning and judgment. They're not outright bad, but they're not good either. As a result, the Light Blues are vulnerable to attacks up the middle (though targeting Brillant is the better idea).
United fans may remember Ronald Matarrita, NYCFC's left back. Last year, in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Black-and-Red found Matarrita more or less unstoppable playing left midfield for Alajuelense. However, the energetic young Costa Rican is more at home as a left back. He will attack frequently, as Vieira does not ask his team to play conservatively even on the road. However, that has left the space behind Matarrita exposed more than once this season, and United will look to feed Patrick Nyarko quickly after turnovers.
Bravo has taken over as the anchor midfielder, and it's easy to see why. Bravo is a pure, natural #6 who anticipates play and does what he can to protect the flimsy NYCFC back four. Bravo - like Luciano Acosta, a loanee from Boca Juniors - has little interest in breaking forward or opening up the game himself. Instead, he wants to keep things simple, win the ball, and feed Pirlo (or, if he's covered, someone else nearby).
Speaking of Pirlo, the Italian is still as precise as ever with his passing over distance and his free kick service. Giving him time on the ball, or handing out cheap free kicks, is a recipe for disaster. However, Pirlo comes with a big risk: He doesn't really run or tackle any more, and he'll play left of center in part to benefit from being around the energy of Matarrita. Don't be surprised if United sets Marcelo Sarvas up in this general area in order for the Brazilian to take advantage of the space that results from Pirlo's stationary nature.
Mikey Lopez fills out the midfield, and that's a direct result of needing someone to do some extra running with Pirlo on the field. Lopez is probably no better than the fifth or sixth best midfielder on the NYCFC roster, but he's on the field because he fits a very specific need. Vieira needs someone that won't stop running, and that's Lopez's main attribute. He probably won't make anything happen going forward, but he will try to help connect the front line with the rest of the midfield when possible.
On the right wing, Vieira seems to be leaning towards Khiry Shelton of late. However, he has also given Steven Mendoza plenty of time (even though Mendoza may be better on the left) lately, and Tony Taylor has also put together nearly 400 minutes on the season. Why such a jumble? All three players are young, fast, and very raw. Shelton may have the most promise of the group, and Mendoza is the best dribbler, but all three are very incomplete players. That said, Taylor Kemp can't be caught cheating forward, as he won't be able to catch up to anyone in this trio.
The Pigeons are basically only as good as David Villa can make them be. The Spanish veteran is pouring himself into every minute of every game as a center forward, and he was SB Nation's player of the week based on his two-goal performance last Saturday. Villa doesn't have much in the way of size, and he's not even that fast any more. How is he still one of MLS's most dangerous forwards? Villa has tremendous soccer IQ and vision off the ball, and he's a razor sharp finisher. United is going to have to be extremely organized and aware of Villa at all times, as giving him even one half-chance is trouble.
On the left, former United midfielder Thomas McNamara - hey, those three offseason weeks between the Chivas USA dispersal draft and the 2014 MLS expansion draft count - has transitioned from a spot in central midfield to the left forward role in Vieira's 433. Aside from inspiring a cult-like allegiance, McNamara is a problem-solver who will often drop off the forward line early in the play to combine before then trying to push into the box as the second scoring threat. He's an inventive, resourceful player, and Sean Franklin will have to be sharp to keep him disconnected from the rest of the team.
Off the bench, Vieira will call on Frank Lamp...haha, just kidding. Frank Lampard will be enjoying the fruits of his gigantic paycheck back home in England while this game is going on. Instead, look for Mendoza to come in as one of the wide forwards as the first sub option. Diskerud has fallen out of favor in part because NYCFC can't hide his lack of defensive impact in a midfield that already carries Pirlo, but he has been getting into games off the bench.
The third sub could go a lot of different ways: Kwadwo Poku could replace Lopez if NYCFC wants to push for a goal late, but with McNamara available to do that as well, Poku might not make the trip. Former Maryland striker Patrick Mullins could come on as a center forward, with Villa moving to the left. Last week against Vancouver, Vieira moved to a 541 in the final minutes to protect a lead, bringing in right back Iraola for Pirlo and asking his wide forwards to push back into the midfield.