On Sunday, New York City F.C. traveled to Washington D.C. for an Eastern Conference clash with D.C. United. Goals from captain David Villa and Khiry Shelton, gave the men in blue a much needed three points. NYCFC currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and only trail leaders Montreal by two points.
In the last three games New York has picked up seven points from a possible nine, and the upstart expansion team may finally be turning a corner under new head coach Patrick Vieira. However, more important than any tactical scheme or timely substitution, has been David Villa’s tireless hunger for success.
There is no doubt that the Barcelona legend is the main man in the Bronx. No. 7 has already scored seven goals in ten appearances. Villa is currently tied with Fanendo Adi and Chris Wondolowski for most goals in the MLS, making him an absolutely irreplaceable asset to his club.
Yet even beyond scoring goals, Villa strengthen’s this team with his indomitable spirit. His fight and determination permeates throughout the side. Younger players like Shelton, McNamara and Taylor need his leadership and consistency to act as a beacon for them to follow.
But the question remains. Is David Villa enough to lift New York City to reputable status? This run of good form could simply be a flash in the pan for New York City. If the club wants to qualify for the MLS playoffs this season, they will need consistency across the board.
Patrick Viera may have finally figured out the best way to implement his 4-3-3 system. As I noted before, Andrea Pirlo’s isolation at the base of the midfield three made it extremely difficult for New York to shield their already porous back four.
In the last three games Vieira has elected to play tough tackling Frederico Bravo in Pirlo’s former position. The maestro has been moved to the left of midfield. This key switch has given New York City far more defensive solidity in Bravo while maintaining the creativity of Pirlo, resulting in a draw against Eastern Conference leaders Montreal and two wins against Washington D.C. and Vancouver. Vieira’s continued tinkering with the team’s inner workings is a crucial factor in New York’s success, or lack thereof.
Khiry Shelton, Ronald Mataritta and Tommy McNamara showed up big against D.C. United and they will need to continue their stylish play in order to give Villa the support he needs. Shelton most importantly will need to be a focal point for New York’s offense. More so than any other player in the sky blue of New York, Shelton possesses the athleticism and physical attributes necessary to give the squad an alternative threat.
Shelton’s two goals on the season came under duress and in a crowd of defenders. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2015 MLS SuperDraft has the ability to add pace and power to an attack that relies heavily on the clever quickness and composed finishing of Villa. Shelton’s role is certainly expanding in his sophomore season and he will need to continue to impress to shoulder the load his captain currently bears.
Finally there’s one glaring issue that New York City have to rectify, and that is Frank Lampard. At this point it’s safe to say that Lampard’s tenure at NYCFC has been shaky at best. He currently claims one of NYC’s designated player positions and has not played a single game.
Lampard is set to make $6 million dollars this year, which is a sum even higher than captain David Villa. If NYCFC are going to make a serious push to the Eastern Conference summit, they will need a designated player who can actually play. Whether that means parting ways with Lampard, or finding a way to keep him fit and playing, this is an issue that New York City must resolve.