Coming Of Age: NYCFC finding their identity ahead of derby

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

New York City FC head into the first Hudson River Derby of 2016 not only holding first place in the Eastern Conference but also the respect of their rivals, the New York Red Bulls.

“We have a lot of respect for New York City FC and the stuff that they’ve been able to do the past couple of weeks,” Red Bull captain Dax McCarty said. “They’ve proven that they’re out of the infancy stage. They’re a real team, they’re very well coached. We certainly know that we’re in for a very tough game.”

NYCFC moved up the standings with a five-game unbeaten streak with results in D.C., Portland and Toronto. Their run of results came after a seven-game streak where City’s positive play failed to produce a victory.

Despite the early season frustrations, head coach Patrick Vieira remained optimistic about the team’s record. Though Vieira’s rosy view drew skepticism from outsiders, his players remained convinced.

“He told us the same thing he told you,” Mix Diskerud said. “The style he wants to play, he believes in it and he made us believe in it as well. We always knew we were playing good soccer and the results were going to come…We stuck together and that’s what he wanted from us and that’s what we decided amongst each other that we’re going to stick through this and here we are a couple of weeks later and it’s been pretty good.”

While Diskerud stopped short of calling NYCFC’s win against the Vancouver Whitecaps a turning point, he did say the win raised the team’s confidence. Diskerud and Andoni Iraola endured the Derby defeats as part of the team’s tumultuous first season. Iraola said while the team has stuck to Vieira’s principles, their ability to stick together and secure results against the Timbers and Toronto FC are a sign the team is maturing.

“Last season we were talking about being a new team and how it takes time,” Iraola said. “It’s easy to say but it’s the reality. We know each other better. The coach each game learns more from each player and we have clear ideas what the responsibility of each player is in the field on every play and every set piece. With time, we can become an even better team.”

When Vieira failed to get results, he said it was on him and the staff to help the squad understand what he wants from them. Andrea Pirlo said there was some disconnect with Vieira’s methods and with what the team’s mostly American-raised players were used to.

Pirlo also said Vieira coaches ‘the right way’ correcting the team’s mistakes week in and week out.

“He’s worked very hard with us and it’s all to his merit that we are finding results,” Pirlo said through a translator. “We are among the top teams this year and we’ve been working hard since the beginning of the season. He’s begun introducing his main concepts of the game and now we’re starting to see actual results.

“He works hard every day to improve the team tactically and technically.”

Pirlo, Vieira and David Villa have all won domestic championships, European Championships and the World Cup but the three of them staked their reputations on NYCFC. Pirlo has benefitted from Vieira’s decision to move him upfield and said Vieira has an exceptional future ahead of him.

Villa said the team’s veterans came into the season ready to be a better team. The turnaround under Vieira speaks for itself.

“We are a better team in every situation,” Villa said. “Not only a better team but a better club. The first year there was instability which was normal. The first part of the season we were in a bad, unstable position. This year it all switched. We are in the second year. The thinking is very good. Patrick brought his ideas to the team very well. We have new players helping us. All of this, day-by-day with strong work makes us a very good team.”

  • The Realist

    They have had four decent games against bad Teams. Reign it in, Chris.

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  • Jerry

    Im a cosmos fan, but most of all a lifelong soccer fan. It’s been a long time since the city had soccer buzz. Looking forward to a sold out game and a great atmosphere.
    NY soccer alive and well!!!!

    • Philip

      It would be nice if you guys got into MLS one day. That would be one hell of a three way rivalry.

      • The only garber

        If mls reaches 32 teams then ny has a possibility of having 3 teams but expansion has gotten hotter by the year.
        The east is full of expansion cities with lots of potential besides (st.louis, Miami) like Nashville, Charlotte, Indy, Cincinnati, Tampa bay, Detroit. I say go for 34 teams in mls, each conference 17 and with 34 teams you can have a simple promotion/relegation and have teams in libertadores.
        Why 17 teams? MLS has to be everywhere in the US in order to take over the sports scene and make MLS cup just like the Super Bowl. Also by having a 34 team league, a 22 team MLS2 would be perfect to go with.
        The west must have Phoenix, San Diego, Vegas, Austin, San Antonio. While the east must have Indy, st.louis, Charlotte, Detroit, cosmos, Tampa bay.

        • Philip

          I can see them approaching them approaching 40 teams with all the cities that are expressing interest. And if promotion / relegation becomes a thing I think two teams from the east and two from the west would have to go up and down.

  • Pirlo

    *cough cough* Hopefully I make it past the 70th minute…..*cough cough* Can’t wait for the postgame spread, and my cigs, sigh.

    • The Realist

      As I was saying, no one is coming of age yet.

      Btw, take a peak at Nick Chavez’s twitter account today. His suffering is pure comedy gold.