By Stephen Fragano
New York City FC opened up its second season this past Sunday, March 6, in Chicago. The team took on the Chicago Fire and claimed its first victory of the campaign with a 4-3 win.
While maintaining big signings of last year such as Andrea Pirlo, David Villa Sanchez, and Frank Lampard, NYCFC made some acquisitions in the offseason to bolster its roster in its newest chapter. One of the most important acquisitions is new head coach Patrick Vieira. The Frenchman of Senegalese origins had an illustrious career as a French international and with acclaimed clubs like Cannes, A.C. Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Manchester City and Arsenal.
The club also continues to attract international players, signing Federico Bravo and Diego Martinez of Argentina, Costa Rican international Ronald Matarrita and Frederic Brillant of France.
The goals in Sunday’s opening day victory came from four different players. West Nyack’s Tommy McNamara, Tony Taylor, Khiry Shelton and Mix Diskerud all got on the score sheet. Diskerud had the game winning goal, allowing his team to extinguish the Fire who had three goals.
A win is a great way to start a season, especially when on the road. However, is the score worthy of praise? A win is a win, yet the Fire is a struggling team. A 4-3 win is not as comfortable a win as one might want against a team who finished dead last in all of Major League Soccer. Their record to end 2015 was 8-20-6 with a goal differential of -15.
Coach Vieira does not seem too worried about the score, though. In a postgame Q&A session with fans via Twitter, Vieira commended his players and their efforts. He recognized that the outcome may not have been perfect, but it is a small step toward what they want to achieve.
Vieira hopes to fine-tune the defense, but also said giving up goals will be a product of the style of play he wants his team to execute. Apparently, Vieira’s style of play is a high-paced, offensive game. A team needs goals to win, and Vieira seems to risk allowing goals in order to score them.
This struck me as unorthodox. Usually, a coach wants all fronts to be running optimally. It is interesting that a coach would open up a season with a very specific, offense-minded strategy.
Perhaps that is what the team needs. Sometimes a team needs to change its mentality in order to jump start itself. The New York City front office wanted someone different than Jason Kreiss, and Vieira appears to be providing that alternative view.
Fans will have to keep an eye on this new strategy. If the last place team in all of Major League Soccer was able to score three goals, it may pose a problem for NYCFC when playing perennial favorites like the L.A. Galaxy, the Columbus Crew and the 2015 MLS Champion Portland Timbers.
The Blues of the Bronx are still a young team. There were growing pains in the first season, and it is unrealistic to think that the troubles are over. Vieira has the experience to lead the team with a new, fresh mentality in its second chapter.
New York City FC will host Toronto FC in its home opener at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, March 13th.