Crooks Soccer Journal: In Praise Of Patrick Vieira

NYCFC Patrick VIeira

by GLENN CROOKS

The evidence has been submitted and the verdict is in:

“We the jury find Patrick Vieira responsible for the recent surge by New York City Football Club.”

City is now unbeaten in five matches following a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC on Wednesday night. Moreover, NYCFC is on top of the Eastern Conference table heading into the #HudsonRiverDerby this Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

One witness in the Vieira trial was Mehdi Ballouchy. The Moroccan is approaching 200 career MLS games with six different clubs. Against Portland on Sunday night, he was making just his second appearance of the season and put in a strong, energetic shift to help City upset the MLS Cup defenders at Providence Park.

After the match, Vieira approached Ballouchy with a smile – he wanted to inform the 33-year- old midfielder that he was certain to start the following match in Toronto.

Ballouchy’s reward went beyond the effective minutes against the Timbers.

“I really like the way Mehdi has handled his situation,” remarked Vieira prior to the Toronto FC match. “He has been a professional, working really hard and with a good attitude. He deserves it.”

Additional witnesses in the Vieira case are fullback, Ethan White and goalkeeper, Josh Saunders.

White committed an elementary violation of the set piece defending code – don’t lose your mark – and NYC lost an opportunity to gain three points at home last month. White, a substitute for the injured RJ Allen, allowed Dominic Oduro to score in stoppage time and Montreal gained a draw. Captain David Villa called it one of the many “presents” that his club had furnished opponents in the early stages of the season.

Vieira testified that he had not adequately prepared White and his team for that situation. While other coaches may have relegated White for such an egregious mistake, Vieira elected to give him the start in the subsequent match.

Saunders was negotiating a rough patch where his feet, hands and mind appeared tangled. There was indecision and a loss of confidence. Notable was a poor two-touch sequence in Vieira’s build-out-of-the-back demands and a Vancouver goal just :37 into the match. With three road matches approaching, there was speculation among supporters, scribes and broadcasters that the time was ripe for the debut of No. 2 keeper, Eirik Johansen.

“Josh is only doing what I am asking him to do,” claimed Vieira who has started Saunders in each of the last three matches and every contest this season.

Against Toronto, Saunders denied Sebastian Giovinco’s breakaway in the first half and made an acrobatic double save after the halftime interval, initiated by Gio’s blast from close range. He denied Portland on three occasions with dramatic stops. It is doubtful that anyone could purloin MLS Keeper of the Week honors from Saunders.

There were seven changes to the lineup at BMO Field on Wednesday. Under oath, Vieira claimed that the alterations would provide a good barometer for the effectiveness of the coaching staff.

“It will be interesting to see players who haven’t played much respond to the tactical side of it because that will as well give the coaching staff an indication of how we are working with the players who don’t play,” said Vieira during our pre-game chat. “It will be important for those players who are coming in to fit and to know what they have to do on the field. That will send us a good message as a staff to see if we have been working with all the players well or if there is something we have to do better.”

The doubters suggested that foreign coaches struggle mightily in MLS. There is a tendency to suggest that the ability to understand how to manipulate the travel, TAM, salary cap plus the other nuances and vague rulings in the 20-year-old league is paramount.

These machinations do not dictate the level of a coach.

Vieira may be unique among his foreign predecessors. His faith in players is genuine, they have testified to that. The video will show that players perform with maximum effort for him and their teammates. Vieira’s demeanor is unpretentious and he accepts responsibility for any team frailties. He is a player’s coach. In a league whose player pool is cap-tied, Vieira provides an environment built on relationships. He has a team that trusts in the system and more importantly, believes in themselves. Ask Mehdi Ballouchy.

The jury had needed but five minutes to deliberate and return their verdict in favor of Vieira.

Throw-Ins

  • -First round draft pick, Jack Harrison, nearly made his debut on Wednesday night. He was called to enter the match in the second half but Vieira changed his mind after concluding that Diego Martinez was struggling with fitness at left back. Consequently, Andoni Iarola became the second substitute at the back after RJ Allen had replaced an ineffective White. Vieira had surmised that a road point was the favorable option. NYC gained seven points from three road matches leading into the MLS Rivalry Week match on Saturday.
  • Toronto FC is now winless in five attempts against New York City.
  • Vieira on Lampard, who will likely be in the squad for Saturday: “He’s been working really well in the last few sessions – I just needed him to train a little bit more but if he keeps working the same way he worked last week, there will be a chance that he will be part of the game against the Red Bulls.”
  • The derby on Saturday at Yankee Stadium will not be a sellout. NYCFC officials expect 40,000 spectators for the fourth all-time meeting. The Red Bulls were a convincing 3-0 in 2015.