Patrick Vieira's defensive game plan versus Toronto FC

The game's history took us from a period in which the defenses defended, above all, the opponent (man to man) to begin to defend especially their own goal (zone defense). But detail has transformed this evolution in a system that has to defend areas of influence, worrying, more than defend his goal, to thwart the progress of the offensive based on the strengths of the opponent.

At Sunday New York City’s match, Patrick Vieira took further this quest to defend the opponent's positions of strength, abandoning definitively what can be a fixed tactical scheme. It was curious to understand that in social media many have questioned whether we would return to the W-M formation. Accepted as a 3-4-3, what the New York City made with their dynamics was well beyond this definition.

In Patrick Vieira’s planning, his team would have to be concerned with three types threats coming from Toronto FC.

  • The main, Sebastian Giovinco, able to get the ball with his back to the goal and use speed towards the area. To contain the Italian, Vieira used only one central defender - Jason Hernandez - leaving to the two defensive pivots - Bravo and Pirlo - the burden of controlling Giovinco’s preferred spaces. With Bravo pursuing Giovinco whenever he retreated in search of the ball, not allowing him to spin, for almost the entire first half Toronto only created danger from set pieces.

  • On the right side of the Canadian offense, Tsubasa Endoh brought the fame of a first week in which his speed seemed to make a difference in Toronto’s attack. Patrick Vieira set Matarrita as the "third" defender, but asked him to do anything different in relation to its original left-back position. The Costa Rican controlled all Endoh initiatives, drying the Japanese and forcing him to get "out of the game."

  • On the left side of Toronto’s attack was Jonathan Osorio, which is essentially a player who prefers to look for spaces in the middle and to contain him, Patrick Vieira moved his second central defender, Frederic Brillant, to be a kind of interior right-back that could stop Osorio’s initiatives or Marky Delgado’s, the central midfielder falling also in this area. Brillant only started becoming a second central when Toronto, already losing by 0-2, tried a more organized attack, but still, always with more concerns in both midfielders than to cover the center-forward.

With this plan, Patrick Vieira put his team 2-0 up at thirty minutes, and kept superiority until close the sixty minutes, when the Toronto’s team began trying to modify their behavior and to position differently in the offense. It should be noted that half of the successfully completed passes by Giovinco were from the left wing. It is hardly surprising that the equalizer, scored by the Italian, has appeared in a play in which Giovinco, escaping from his primary play area, faced Brilliant in a 1v1.

Patrick Vieira did not won the game, but seems to begin to win the battle of credibility in MLS, something that has not been easy for foreign coaches.

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