NYCFC sticking to principles ahead of Red Bull rematch



Having witnessed repeated failures of his side’s approach in its first meeting with the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira is sticking with his principles — and likely his lineup — for Sunday’s rematch.

“We know what to expect, we are prepared and we are not going to change,” Vieira said. “We will want to play and we are going to play from the back because that is the way we’ve been working since the beginning of the season.”

The Red Bulls have been pressing high up the pitch since the beginning of last season. It has gotten them a Supporters’ Shield and victories in the first four Hudson River Derbies. NYCFC have fielded essentially the same lineup in their last two matches. It has gotten them two wins and two complete performances.

“The manager is searching for the right combinations and in the last two weeks we’ve seen good combinations,” Frank Lampard said. “Not to say that we’re not a squad and other players don’t come in and contribute as well but it’s been to nice see fluency in our play, back-to-front our passes have been better and we’ve been creating more chances.”

After serving his suspension, center back Jason Hernandez will likely re-enter the lineup as The Pigeons are almost set to field the same side that defeated the Philadelphia Union June 18. Lampard has been the catalyst to the team’s two wins with goals in both games. His entry delighted David Villa.

“Now with him, we are a more experienced team that’s very good on the pitch,” Villa said. “He always wants to score, he gives an option for the center backs and with [Andoni Iraola] in the midfield and it makes things easier. With him, we play better now from the back.”

The trio of Lampard (38), Iraola (34) and Andrea Pirlo (37) has the experience to defy league norms — if City can keep a compact shape. That requires wide players Jack Harrison and Thomas McNamara to tuck inside, something Vieira said he’s seen both players do well. But the decision to use Iraola as a defensive midfielder, out of necessity at first, has been largely successful.

“What is important in this position is experience,” Vieira said. “Iraola is calm, composed on the ball and he makes the simple decision. In football, we know that sometimes the simple decisions are the most difficult ones to make. He brings us his tactical knowledge and understanding. I really like that Andoni is calm and he’s improved the team tactically. Sometimes, having young players in his position is good because they give you field coverage but at the same time you lose a little tactical knowledge.”

Vieira will depend on his side’s positioning and awareness to beat the Red Bulls’ press. He looked for energy and physicality in the first meeting and it led to obvious failure. That game was Lampard’s uncelebrated season debut. It also provided Lampard with a strong lesson about life in MLS.

“In the MLS generally but especially against a good team like the Red Bulls,” Lampard said, “if you’re off the pace as a team then you’ll get beaten and beaten well because teams will punish you. We did that at home and it hurt…You can’t just brush it under the carpet, you need to address it and what better way to address it than to play them again in a month at home again.”