Patrick Vieira overthinks, New York City FC sinks

BRavo Villa NYCFC

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

TORONTO – Sometimes, you have to keep it simple.

Patrick Vieira overthought his lineup options in New York City FC’s 2-0 loss to Toronto. Instead of sticking to his idea of playing as aggressive and positive as possible on the road, Vieira lined New York City FC in a 5-4-1 that was protective — and far from proactive. Without Andrea Pirlo, Vieira chose Mikey Lopez and Federico Bravo to hold the midfield over second-leading scorer Frank Lampard and the team’s second-best creator, Thomas McNamara.

“Why not play with Mikey instead of anybody else?” Vieira said. “We had a gameplan and I wanted to be more solid centrally. And that is the reason I chose Mikey to play next to Fede.”

Lopez took an elbow to the head moments into the match. causing him to be seen by the training staff more than once during the first half. He completed about 60% of his passes in 60 minutes of action — the second-lowest completion percentage of any City player. Bravo played the full 90 minutes and completed 73% of his passes but created no chances and took no shots.

Both players received yellow cards.

Of course, coming to Toronto means having to face Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. The pairing have found their form after injuries and international duty kept them separated and sidelined for parts of the season. Giovinco had his chances but it was Altidore who broke the deadlock in the 84th minute, spoiling City’s efforts.

“We knew they had a strong attacking force so we had to find a way to shut that down,” Jack Harrison said. “I thought we did fairly well, apart from the two kind of scrappy goals they created. At the same time, we wanted to take our chances going forward and we started with David [Villa], [Steven] Mendoza and I and they did a very good job of defending. We didn’t create much, especially in the first half but our subs came on and made a difference but we couldn’t find the goal.”

Vieira’s decision to focus on clogging the middle turned the match into a scrap that his team lost. Toronto FC won 75 duals to NYCFC’s 35 and City only completed 353 passes, almost 100 less than their average during the season. City average a 78.5 completion percentage, they completed 69% of their passes Sunday night.

R.J. Allen said they could have benefited from still trying to play from the back.

“They pressed us well,” Allen said. “I think at times, we need to be more brave and look to keep the ball and play out of spots. At times, we were looking too quickly to play the long ball. I think that at times that we could’ve been more brave and kept the ball but at home, I think you’re going to see a different team.”

To R.J.’s point, NYCFC have no choice but to field a different side. City need to make up a two-goal deficit when it hosts the second leg next weekend. There is now no incentive to keep Lampard on the bench for 60 minutes and there isn’t a next game for Vieira to rest Pirlo. Lampard was able to play more than 30 minutes according to those close to Vieira, but the situation with his calf now may be completely different by next Sunday. Same with Pirlo, who will undergo more scans on his calf early this week.

As for NYCFC’s third DP, he was subbed off earlier after a rare ineffective performance.

“David didn’t touch too many balls, the service could be better, his movement could be better to get that service,” Vieira said. “So I think it’s more of the team than an individual so I took him for someone who was more physical up front with Khiry [Shelton].”

Vieira said he knew what to expect in the playoffs and from the crowd at BMO Field, whom he believed influenced referee Silviu Petrescu’s decisions. He said the defense kept Toronto’s forwards in check for much of the game before conceding. The goals allowed, he said, were from lapses in concentration.

Missed clearances and missed marks—things that are not unprecedented with NYCFC’s defense.

“I don’t think we deserved to lose 2–0, to be honest” Chanot said. “The two goals were not really beautiful goals but congratulations to Toronto they did their job and now we look forward to doing our job next weekend.”