By CHRISTIAN ARAOS
ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — Ronald Matarrita stayed down after colliding with Jack Harrison in training on Thursday. The New York City FC trainers rushed out on a golf cart and inflated an air cast for Matarrita to rest his left leg on. The trainers focused their attention on his ankle for a few minutes before helping him up and carrying him onto the cart.
The session resumed with the rest of the team scrimmaging with the same intensity as before Matarrita’s injury. Afterward, Coach Patrick Vieira said that he hopes Matarrita had only twisted the ankle injury and would only be sidelined for the day. No such luck: NYCFC said later in the afternoon that Matarrita sustained a high-ankle sprain and would be out four-to-six weeks.
Matarrita’s injury will alter the approach Vieira takes for Sunday’s game against Orlando City. Vieira said that he wants to keep using a 3-4-3, but the team switched back to the 4-3-3 for the game against the Philadelphia Union, and won. Vieira said that the team is more comfortable with the four-man defensive line, but he explained that with Cyle Larin being in form, it may be best to play three in the back.
“We’re thinking about it,” Vieira said “Playing three at the back will stop them from creating chances because everything they do is central so I’m thinking about playing three in the back. It’s not something that I’m supposed to tell you.”
Besides providing the spare defender to account for Larin and Carlos Rivas, going 3-4-3 allows NYCFC to add numbers to the midfield. Vieira can go to the midfield box, also known as the W-M, and start Thomas McNamara alongside Maxi Moralez with Andrea Pirlo and Alexander Ring playing underneath. Vieira can also play a flat midfield line and move Rodney Wallace into Matarrita’s place with McNamara in the forward line or simply have McNamara replace Matarrita in the midfield line, keeping the front three the same.
Judging from Vieira’s comments, the 3-4-3 is going to be used often this season. That is no surprise considering how often Vieira changes formations during games and during a season. He said that the system allows City to control the ball more.
“This is a system that I believe we have the players to do it and do it really well,” he said. “When you play against a team like D.C., having the extra players in the midfield was good. It’s just that our position on the field in possession wasn’t that good and it didn’t allow us to have the overloads we wanted. But that is something we are going to work on this week and we are going to improve the players’ position on the field.”
Matarrita’s injury was the second to hit the Pigeons’ first team this week after Khiry Shelton sustained a hamstring injury during last Friday’s game. Shelton is expected to miss four-to-six weeks to the injury. He has made four appearances this season, all coming off the bench.
Jonathan Lewis was able to train with the first team for the entire session after injury and form kept him away from the game-day squad. Lewis is a natural replacement for Shelton in the 18 and could benefit from game experience as he pushes to make the United States squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
NYCFC and Orlando City will wear special edition uniforms for Sunday’s game as part of a partnership among Major League Soccer, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans. The uniforms composed of fibers made from plastics that were pulled from the Indian Ocean off the coast of the Maldive Islands. Some NYCFC jerseys will be auctioned, with the proceeds used to finance the team’s City in the Community initiative.
Other Earth Day initiatives include a social media contest with suite tickets up for grabs, as well as an effort by team staff and season-ticket holders to partner with GrowNYC at the Eighth Annual South Bronx Fest to engage those in attendance in environmental activities and games.