NYCFC search for defensive solutions

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

New York City FC found out how much work has to go into being a contender in MLS during their loss to Columbus Crew SC Saturday night.

After posting its first clean sheet of the season, NYCFC allowed three goals to Crew SC who had entered the match winless with only one goal in their previous three matches.

Head coach Patrick Vieira said he knew Crew SC were better than their record suggested. He criticized his team for not sticking to his gameplan — and for their overall work in defense.

“We have to keep believing in ourselves,” Vieira said. “We still had a few chances tonight even if we didn’t play well. It is always good to create chances, but I think it is about the team; about how can we help the strikers to create chances, how can we help our defense to defend better. That’s how we are defending from the midfield and from the front players. ”

Defender Jason Hernandez made his 250th career appearance in Saturday’s match. Hernandez has played every minute of City’s regular season at centerback. He said the loss made the occasion bittersweet but represented a measuring stick for where the team is at relative to others in the East.

“I think as far as a unit, defending the movement,” Hernandez said, “they had some great timing and they were able to break us down. Overall, understanding that is the measuring stick for the top two teams in this league. They are very dynamic and understand the system very well. That’s a process we’re trying to improve on and get there ourselves, but we kind of have to shake this off and get ready for next week, and it’ll get better from there.”

Vieira played the same back four as the one that kept a shutout against the Chicago Fire April 9th. Though he may remain with the status quo for next Saturday’s match against the Philadelphia Union, that may change once Ethan White is healthy. White was set to start at right back against the Fire but injured his hamstring during warmups.

Had White played, Andoni Iraola would have played his first game as a centerback. Iraola as a centerback works because he understands the tactics and plays comfortably with the ball on his feet, Vieira said. Iraola did play on the right side of NYCFC’s back three and roamed that side of the field making recoveries and venturing into the midfield while in possession.

“I’ve never played centerback,” Iraola said last Thursday. “He wants me to help in possession with the buildup from the back and I think I can help. I think I can do what he asks me to do. My play is more defensively focused but I think I can do what he asks me to do.”

White and Iraola at right back act as a counterweight to Ronald Matarrita on the left. Neither White or Iraola move into advanced positions as often as Matarrita does, so the plan is for them to remain deep to protect NYCFC from counterattacks. NYCFC were exposed on the left, however, by Crew SC failing to cover for Matarrita’s forays, not for being unbalanced.

The former Athletic Bilbao-man would compliment Hernandez allowing the latter to focus on marking and physically containing the opponent’s center forward. Iraola said the team has to improve in turning possession into chances and in their collective defending.

“This is the work of every single player in the team,” Iraola said. “Everyone is responsible for scoring goals and to defend. I don’t think we should only focus on the defenders.”

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  • Fat Frank

    I’ll play goal.

    I’m so damn fat, that nothing will get past me.

  • Quick right arm

    Please don’t mention ‘contender’ and boy city in the same sentence again until 2023, at the earliest. This team is beyond brutal. And impossible to watch.

  • Dandy don Garber

    Team glam is executing my plan perfectly.

  • Darin Kato

    only thing worse than the tofu and eel roll is the Red Bulls !!!!