By Glenn Crooks
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“We will create more than we concede.”READ MORE: Glass Bottle Attack In Chelsea Station Just The Latest Incident As Subway Crime Increases
That was the preseason credo of New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira. The French international was outlining a philosophy that demands an attacking mentality out of a vast shape in a 4-3-3 system. The precis includes up to seven players making forays into the opponents’ third of the field.
Consider these attacking facts that support his stance after a season-opening 4-3 victory at Chicago last Sunday:
— City did not score the fourth goal of its inaugural season until the 55th minute of the fifth match.
— The three first-half goals were the most in franchise history — only one time had NYCFC scored multiple goals in the first half, versus Toronto FC on July 12, 2015.
— New York City recorded a franchise single-game record 10 shots on target in the victory over Chicago. Four different players scored and not one of them was named David Villa.
“The way I want the team to play is a risk,” Vieira said during media day at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. “But I’m prepared to take that kind of risk. What is important for me is that we will create more than we concede. This is the philosophy I want for our football team.”
The new team shape begins with the center backs taking wide positions on either side of the box to prepare for goalkeeper distribution, while the fullbacks move into high and wide stations. The contour risk was notable against the Fire. Vieira’s compatriot and new center back, Frederic Brillant, was stripped on three occasions while attempting to patiently build from the back — one resulted in Chicago’s second goal.
“I think we conceded three goals because we gave the goals away,” Vieira said. “Even if we don’t talk about the three goals, we conceded too many chances.”
“Personally, it was a very difficult game,” Brillant admitted. “It was the most bad game of my career. I hope the second game is better.”
That second game is this Sunday afternoon against Toronto FC and reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco. If Brillant struggles again, we might see a re-enactment from a season ago at Yankee Stadium. Gio had a hat trick in a 4-4 draw and is coming off a one-goal, one-assist routine that led the Reds to victory over the New York Red Bulls last week.
“I watch a lot of games that he has played,” Brillant said. “He can run into space and play between the lines. I am very excited to play against Giovinco.”
It remains to be seen if supporters will share in that elation. When isolated, Brillant was unable to manage any of the Fire attackers and Gio is masterful at playing off the most vulnerable opponent at the back. Perhaps more alarming is that Brillant was purchased with the understanding that he had the technique, composure and awareness to operate in Vieira’s system.
“It was the first game in MLS for a couple of guys out there,” remarked goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who was forced to make a pair of point-blank saves in the first half off Brillant turnovers. “I don’t think they realized how fast some of the transition game is.”
“I know football and I know my position,” Brillant said. “We played slow, not quickly in the back.”
“We are playing a more aggressive line,” Saunders added. “If we don’t have pressure on the ball we have to know better when to drop off.”
This is the required coordination of any back line. Neither Brillant nor fellow center back Jason Hernandez have the pace to gallop step for step with Giovinco. Consequently, their ability to read pressure on the ball and drop into space can counteract the crafty Italian, who Red Bulls coach Jessie Marsch called “our Messi in MLS.”
— Saunders dove the wrong way on a spot kick by David Accam in Chicago, failing to heed the sage advice of Andrea Pirlo.
— New York City has not been permitted to train at Yankee Stadium ahead of the home opener, losing an advantage to prepare for the smaller field dimensions.
“There will be no excuses on that side,” Vieira said. “We know it will be difficult, but we have been preparing for it all week.”READ MORE: Racism Declared A Public Health Crisis In New York City
Regrettably, not on the game field.
— Tommy McNamara scored the first MLS goal in 2016 with a spectacular curling shot from distance — with his right foot.
Could he strike a shot like that with his left peg?
“Yes he can,” interrupted Saunders, sitting next to McNamara at the media event. “I’ve been on the other end of that.”
New York City is now 4-2 when McNamara scores a goal and 5-2 when he records a point.
–nSaunders, who was kicked in the elbow and suffered a partial tear of his right bicep, trained at 75 percent on Thursday and said he plans to start against Toronto.
“Every time I kicked the ball, it felt like my bicep was rolling up into my shoulder. It was a strange feeling,” he said.
In Vieira’s system, distribution from the back is vital and that includes the keeper throw to ignite the attack. Will Saunders attempt to deliver with his left arm?
“No, I’ll just throw with the right and deal with the pain,” Saunders said.
— Kwadwo Poku supporters engaged on Twitter when it was learned that the Ghanaian was not one of the 10 players invited to the press gathering. There was an assumption that this may been a statement by the club.
“Poku will have a massive part in our roster. He is a player that will be really important for us,” Vieira reasoned. “At the moment, yeah, he did not get involved in the first game, but it’s just one game. The league is going to be really long and really difficult and every single player will be important to us.”
— Pirlo made an observation that will gratify MLS Commissioner Dan Garber.
“I’m really convinced that MLS will become one of the best leagues in the world,” the Italian legend said.
— The rebellion against Comcast has been well documented. Subscribers from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are unable to watch their beloved Yankees. The YES Network was dropped suddenly in November of 2015, and has yet to be reinstated due to a contract dispute. Therefore, I was unable to watch the Yankees’ spring training debut on Thursday.
In addition, I could not DVR the New York City FC at Chicago Fire match from Sunday. I like to come home from my NYC radio broadcasts on WFAN and re-watch the match.
My dismay with Comcast goes beyond that.
The FIFA elections were carried on FS1 recently until 7 a.m. ET when the coverage switched to FS2. Comcast does not have a carriage for FS2. Therefore, I was unable to watch the election returns after viewing four hours of preliminary rhetoric starting at 3 a.m.ET.
beIN Sports broadcasts the top-tier leagues in world soccer on a weekly basis, but I am unable to view the matches in HD on the multiple HD TVs I have in my household.
I have called Comcast and written a letter of discontent with no response.
I refer to a phrase from the old Johnny Cash recording at San Quentin prison, perhaps expressing the sentiment of thousands.
“San Quentin (substitute Comcast) may you rot and burn in hell.”MORE NEWS: Civilian Complaint Review Board: Dozens Of NYPD Officers Should Be Disciplined For Misconduct During Black Lives Matter Protests Last Year
For all things NYCFC and futbol, please follow Glenn on Twitter at @GlennCrooks