We are now six games into the MLS season and it’s time we take a look at how new head coach Patrick Vieira is revamping New York City F.C. After an enticing season opener where the boys in blue notched four goals against the Chicago Fire, NYC have had trouble scoring goals with any regularity.
It seems that if David Villa is held in check there are few other options that New York can look to. Defense is still an issue as well, but the anemic nature of New York’s attack seems far more worrisome at this point. Most fans came into this season expecting to give up a lot of goals, but many also believed that the team would be able to play an attractive style of soccer as well.
Unfortunately that has not transpired on the pitch. New York have dabbled with multiple formations this season, trying their best to find balance between attack and defense. Going forward New York have a clinical finisher in David Villa and pace down the wings in the form of Khiry Shelton, Tony Taylor and Stephen Mendoza, so going forward NYC have options.
However there are two key issues that NYCFC have to compensate for; a lack of midfield physicality and persistent poor defensive positioning. These two problems usually work in concert to become the team’s undoing.
Ultimately it seems as though Vieira’s current 4-3-3 formation is not operating as it should. Against the Columbus Crew, Adrea Pirlo was deployed as the pivotal deep lying midfielder, with Mix Diskerud and Tommy McNamara acting as the midfield “shuttlers”.
In this formation the midfield three is incredibly important because they have the responsibility of feeding the three forwards, and also shielding the defense. This puts Pirlo in an incredibly unenviable position. At the age of 36 Pirlo isn’t exactly a midfield destroyer, nor was he ever considered an especially athletic player in his pomp. Therefore isolating Pirlo as the main cover for the back four results in situations like Columbus’ third goal where the aged Italian is yards away from the action, trotting to his own penalty area.
Don’t get me wrong, that is not Pirlo’s fault. He isn’t going to become Arturo Vidal overnight, so Vieira needs to take that into account. Pirlo’s greatest assets are his vision and wide range of passing. There is no one on NYC’s roster who can replicate the Juventus legends’ class on the ball. However his physical limitations are glaring. Therefore it’s utter madness to leave him isolated in front of a porous defense with two fairly lightweight midfielders, who are always pushing forward, as his only support.
Because of New York’s lack of solidity in the middle, they clearly suffer repercussions both in attack and defense. NYCFC’s back four is often pulled out of position attempting to compensate for their midfield fragility. Players like Villa and Mendoza rarely have any options to look to as they go forward, which often isolates them and forces them to go one v. one, resulting in poor shots.
One of the biggest lessons that any manager has to learn, is finding the balance between playing their philosophy and compensating for their personnel. New York may not have the players needed to make Vieira’s 4-3-3 successful. The French coach could possibly look to change things up in terms of formation and personnel by reintroducing the 4-2-3-1 that worked during certain spells last season, and starting the powerful Kwadwo Poku.