by Christian Araos
New York City FC is more talented this year but it might take awhile for it to become apparent, Coach Patrick Vieira said as a preseason that has not gone to plan concludes.
“Having players come in at different times really makes it difficult for me to have my starting XI if I can say it,” Vieira said. “We still have one more game [against Sporting Kansas City] to play on Saturday to have a look at some of the players who arrived late. It’s been a little frustrating not having those players in earlier because it may take a few more games before knowing what is my starting XI.”
NYCFC finally has its squad together in Tucson, Ariz., after spending the first three weeks of the preseason completing signings and waiting for the visa process to work its way out. The signing of the designated player Maxi Moralez was only completed on Feb. 15 and he only played about an hour against the Houston Dynamo. Defensive midfielder Alexander Ring signed on Feb., 1 but did not join the team until late last week. Yangel Herrera signed with Manchester City but his loan could not be finalized until after the South American Youth Championship ended on the Feb 11. Neither has played yet this preseason, leaving Vieira unsure about his options.
“Players played some games but the last ones that arrived, they weren’t ready to play the last game we played on Wednesday so they will play on Saturday,” Vieira said. “I think after the game on Saturday, I can give you a few names but at the moment it is too early. But for me, what is interesting as a coach is that I have different options.”
On Wednesday’s conference call Vieira several times said that he has the players to field different formations during the course of the season. The two formations he talked about the most were the 4-3-3 that City played the second half of last year and the W-M, which is a 3-4-3 with the midfield four aligned in a box. Vieira used that formation for parts of the first half of the year. Vieira mentioned Moralez and the new signing Rodney Wallace as players who are versatile enough to be used in either formation, the reason he’s confident this year’s team is better than last year’s.
“Because as a coach I have players who can play different positions,” Vieira said. “I think we have better players over all. I think last year, we didn’t have so many choices regarding the players that we have. This year, there will be more competitiveness between the players and that will help get the best out of every single one of them. I think that’s what I like about the group that we have.”
City is a younger team this year with only three players over the age 30 on the roster and four younger than 21. They are also two or three deep at every position in Vieira’s opinion. He said he hopes that will foster competition among the players for starting spots that would ultimately make the team better.
“It’s not only difficult from a tactical side but a physical side as well so players may not have the understanding that I will want from them,” he said. “That is part of the job and it is my responsibility to be clear and try to spend more time in the video room to send the message that I want. The only challenge is not having the players together for them to understand each other, that was the biggest challenge.”