NYCFC looking for a response – and a solution

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by Christian Araos

The pigeons can kill two birds with one stone if they can beat Orlando City SC Sunday.

A win at Yankee Stadium would both flush the thoughts of last week’s loss to the New York Red Bulls and turnaround New York City FC‘s home form. City followed their regular schedule this week which included two days off before the team returned to training.

Head coach Patrick Vieira said the off days allowed him to watch and re-watch film to try to understand what went wrong.

“It was really difficult to put a finger on something specific,” Vieira said. “I think it was more different things that made it no match for us.”

The result leaves NYCFC as one of two teams in the East to have gathered more points on the road (10) than at home (7). Toronto FC, the other team, played eight of its first 12 matches away due to BMO Field’s renovation. NYCFC are still looking to explain their own situation.

“I personally don’t have an explanation for it,” Jason Hernandez said. “I’d like to think we prepare for every match the same way with good game-planning and a lot of hard work. For whatever reason on the road, we’ve had a little more success. I think that’s something we’re looking to address this weekend because we understand that games at home should be three points for us and we need to start making that happen.”

Vieira will have to make two changes to his lineup for Sunday’s game. Midfielder Mikey Lopez is suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Ronald Matarrita is with Costa Rica for the Copa America Centenario. Though there will be changes to the lineup, Vieira said there will not be a change in philosophy.

“We have to stick to our principles,” Vieira said. “If we are where we are in the table, then we are doing somethings right. What is important is that we have to learn from the mistakes we made but our week didn’t change. The way that we built up the week didn’t change. We stick to our plan, to our philosophies and it’s just improving the details.”

NYCFC will continue to emphasize playing from the back despite its occasionally catastrophic failings. Vieira said he could not point out a specific fault from the team’s performance despite watching film ‘more than twice’. He attributed the five goals City allowed on corner kicks to poor concentration and a lack of mental preparation. He said the squad need to have the right mentality to execute his philosophy despite opposition pressure.

“[The Red Bulls] were really aggressive but on the other side, we weren’t brave enough to play forward,” Vieira said, “that is what we have to do. We have to be more brave and trusting of each other to play from the back. Where we got hurt was when we didn’t take the initiative to play it forward more than they were pressing.”

Vieira said he sets the size of the field at NYCFC’s training complex at Purchase to the same dimensions as the one in The Bronx. The field is reportedly smaller than the minimum standards set by FIFA leaving less space for them to pass the ball into. Vieira said the team has to accept the reality of playing in Yankee Stadium and adjust.

“When we play from the back, the way we want to do it, what we need to add, especially when the field is small, is the tempo of our passing,” Vieira said. “The tempo has to be right. When it’s not, you make it easier for the opposition. We need to raise the tempo, we need to raise the quality of our passes. We have the solution. I would be worried if we didn’t have the solution. But when we have the solution, the problem is about the tempo and the decision-making.”

City are second in the Eastern Conference heading into Sunday’s match. They are well-positioned to lead the Conference heading into the Copa America break with matches at home on Sunday and next Thursday. Frank Lampard is expected to be available off the bench for both games as Vieira opts to gradually work him back into the squad. Lampard said the team has the experience to flush last week’s result from their minds.

“We looked at the negatives on video but I think the huge thing for us is to put perspective,” Lampard said. “Look at the season, look where we are compared to last season, we’re sitting pretty well. I don’t think we’ve become a bad team overnight with one result. The real message that I and the team have been saying is let’s move on, let’s get back to winning ways. Massive game for us on Sunday to show the fans, to show the team and to show the league that we’re up at the top of the table because we deserve to be there.”