New York City FC is one of the tougher to understand teams in MLS at the moment. They have quite the array of statistics going for them. For instance, no team maintains more possession and no team fires more shots per match. That in and of itself is enough to think they’d be doing okay.
Yet, the boys in blue have yet to win a game since the opening shoot out with the Chicago Fire. Despite the fact that David Villa is doing exactly what he has always done.
So what then is the problem? Taking that many shots and controlling that much possession is usually a recipe for success, yet success has eluded them.
There are many theories as to what is going wrong. One of which is the often lackadaisical style of the maestro, Andre Pirlo. I, too, have been guilty of seeing a poorly orchestrated back pass almost turn into an opposition goal and wondered why such things would ever happen.
But Andrea Pirlo is not the problem. In fact, his work rate thus far into the year is the best we’ve ever seen. Placed in his favorite role ahead of the back four, Pirlo has come to accept that this same role, that he turned into footballing brilliance in Italy, has added responsibilities in MLS. To be more specific, it has defensive responsibilities, one of Pirlo’s least favorite things.
Yet Italy’s most interesting man has stepped up his responsibilities, showing that he is well aware what it would mean to the team if he were to shirk his defensive duties.
He has always been an excellent reader of the game. Mainly because he is so damn intelligent. So his interceptions have hovered around the numbers they are at right now. But it’s in his tackles that we see the increased effort. Pirlo is averaging 3.4 tackles per ninety – higher than he has ever averaged by a long shot.
This has become such a crucial piece to NYCFC’s development because, as mentioned, he occupies a crucial role in front of that defense and in a physical league like MLS, he could have very easily capitulated to getting manhandled, but he hasn’t.
Through it all, his offensive figures have not faltered at all either. He’s not losing possession anymore, he’s not creating any less chances – none of that. The only thing that has dipped a bit is his passing, but that is a direct result of him attempting so many more long balls (twice as many, in fact).
Pirlo is not the reason NYCFC is flustered thus far into the season. He is one of the reasons why they could turn it around, as he has become a controlling force at the base of the midfield. Or rather, he has continued his lifelong role as the controlling force at the base of the midfield.