Patrick Vieira is undefeated as a senior-level head coach. But the New York City FC gaffer isn't perfect.
Yes, for everything he's got going for him -- and it's a lot -- he continues to proliferate a truly odious soccer malediction:
For those inside Major League Soccer's bubble, "The MLS," as a phrase, is considered a tell, the kind that would seem to out the speaker as some kind of blathering dilettante. Indeed, nobody awash in savvy would ever refer to the league as "The Major League Soccer." The logic would appear to extend to the abbreviation as well.
But for Vieira, we have to put his repeated utterances of "the MLS" aside, because the man is anything but a novice when it comes to the juggling act required to run this team.
In the opening press conference at Wednesday's NYCFC Media Day, Vieira dished out praise for his team's performance in Sunday's 4-3 win at Chicago, while signaling that his group is far from the finished product.
PV: "Mix has got talent, and I expect him and the rest of the players to work harder than they did last year."
PV: "Khiry doesn't yet realize how good he can be. My job is to push him, make it really difficult for him."
The particular phrasing -- "make it really difficult for him" -- points to perhaps the most profound divergence between Vieira and his predecessor, Jason Kreis: hearing these words from Vieira feels pretty inviting. If Kreis had said the same words, I can't help but think that they'd arrive cold. Given the way these players are carrying themselves, and the way that the vague hopefulness of 2015 has given way to a defined sense of poise, this distinction matters.
After Vieira stepped aside, it was time for el Guaje and il Professore to take center-stage.
"We have a new coach and a new frame of mind," Pirlo said, adding that the team's enhanced sense of focus is going to play a role in the growth and refinement of Major League Soccer as a whole. Really, this is still Year One for Pirlo. His late arrival last summer found him beginning to get comfy in his role as the midfield's nerve center just as the season wound down to its end.
Villa, whose English continues to come along quite nicely, was happy to have 2015 behind him, too.
David Villa: Last year "was very difficult for me, for the club. We are happy with our work in the preseason and in the first game."
Among the leaders of the team, the relative chaos of the inaugural season giving way to sense of coherence and intent was a major theme of the afternoon. This kind of progress breeds confidence, which was not in short supply.
Villa: "I hope to score a lot of goals this year." I hope to score "in the game on Sunday."
Look upon my works, ye Torontonians, and despair.
As the two designated players exited for television interviews, the scrum shifted to the locker room. While two tables received the most attention -- one shared by Josh Saunders and Tommy McNamara, the other featuring Mix Diskerud going stag -- there was one star in the room that shined brighter than all the rest.
Much like his kinetic performances on the pitch, the former Sporting KC man was everywhere. When he wasn't clowning on Ronald Matarrita, he was asking Diskerud fake interview questions using a water bottle like a microphone, or GoPro-ing himself while chatting with MLS reporter Jillian Sakovitz.
Mikey, you da real MVP.
OTHER ISHT WE LEARNED
- Diskerud said the he got food poisoning earlier in the week. We cannot yet confirm that this was due to drinking the blood of his enemies out of their uncorked skulls.
- Josh Saunders, who sustained a wicked gash on his right arm during Sunday's action, stated that he feels about 75%, but that he would still play even if his health was at 10%.
- Tommy McNamara is taking his emerging cult fame in stride, and sent his best to the genius behind @cultofmcnamara, SB Nation's Jason Anderson.
- Though they both scored goals against Chicago, Villa praised Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton for their work providing defensive support. (The stats especially favor Shelton in this regard.)
- When asked, Vieira shared some admiration for Stiven Mendoza, whose apparent loan to NYCFC was announced by his parent club, reigning Brazilian champs Corinthians. "The deal is not done yet," the gaffer said, perhaps referring to the need to secure a twelfth international roster spot in order to remain in compliance with MLS rules.
- Vieira insisted that Kwadwo Poku, who was not present Wednesday afternoon after riding the bench in the season opener, "has a massive part to play" this season.