The rain started just as the players took the pitch but one rainy night turned into three big points for New York City Football Club. The team defeated Sporting KC without their big stars and with barely enough players to fill the bench.
Patrick Vieira filled his bench spots out with everyone he had and laid out a plan of attack that held KC at bay and provided quickness down the wings on attack. Without David Villa, Rodney Wallace,alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera the team started with a front line of Jonathan Lewis, Ugo Okoli, and Jack Harrison. From the very first play Vieira’s men push the ball to the speedy wingers and crossed it into Okoli who played a far more traditional hold up striker role on the night.
While the game was sloppy at times because of the rain, NYCFC’s reserve players all acquitted themselves well. Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Moralez and Tommy McNamara controlled the midfield. Pirlo seemed even particularly interested in playing defense and showed why he is still a star as he fed pass after pass forward to the eager wingers. Vieira spoke highly after the game about Pirlo and McNamara in their roles. ” I think that both of them played really well and worked really hard. They’ve been really smart with the way they’ve been defending and I want to give them a lot of credit because it’s not easy when you don’t play and you come in the game like that and you perform the way they did today. In the end I am not surprised… They play the way they’ve been working this week and that’s what makes me so proud as a coach. ”
Khiry Shelton came off the bench for Lewis in the second half and seemed to inject new energy into the attack making several good runs with the ball into space. He spoke about his job after the game saying, “Patrick told me to come on and work defensively and collectively. I was able to pick off some balls and work it forward.” Perhaps the strangest sub of the night was John Stertzer coming on for Okoli and playing as a striker. Stertzer played with energy in a position he had never seen game time in. NYCFC looked the more dangerous team for most of the night and with just six minutes left in the game Jack Harrison received a ball from RJ Allen, controlled it with his chest and volleyed it home. The rain soaked crowd went nuts and the team was rewarded for a collectively gritty performance on the night.
Vieira heaped praise upon his whole team for the night’s effort. “The eleven who start represent the whole. I’m proud of the consistency we have in our games no matter who plays.”
This was a team patched together but the plan worked. The chemistry was still there. The defence was stalwart and the attack dangerous. The three points help to create separation in the Eastern Conference between the top two teams and the rest of the pack as the season moves toward the playoffs.
NYCFC now must weather a different type of storm on Saturday when Portland comes to town. With David Villa’s status for the game still uncertain, fans can rest a bit easier knowing the team still has the ability to win no matter who takes the pitch.