When the starting XI's were released less than an hour before last night's kickoff between NYCFC and Chicago, I suddenly needed a break. I needed a deep breath.
Why the eff is Ethan White starting at fullback again?
We take the right side of our defenses very seriously here at HRB, so we were justly concerned about this apparent lineup decision. As it happened, though, White's hamstring began acting up in pre-game warmups. Consequently, Andoni Iraola slid over to the right fullback spot, with Fred Brillant making the short-notice start alongside him at center back.
Brillant went on to have his best game to date in the Etihad shirt. That lineup mystery solved itself, but two others evaded explanation:
Khiry Shelton and Mikey Lopez, mainstays of Patrick Vieira's team sheets to date, were relegated from the squad entirely. Neither was even amongst the subs.
Shelton had started all three games for which he was available, logging 213 minutes. He was away with the USA Under-23 National Team for NYCFC's 1-1 draw against New England. Lopez, a stated favorite of Vieira's, had logged 34 minutes in two appearances off the bench.
Vieira later explained in his postgame remarks -- check the 6:40 mark in this video -- that the decision to banish Shelton and Lopez came in result of a short video featuring the two, filmed by Lopez and posted by Fox Sports, that had been making the rounds on social media in the days leading up to the match.
Here's the original clip:
— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@NYCFClol) April 11, 2016
As Vieira responded after the match:
"Khiry and Mikey Lopez were supposed to be part of the team, but I wasn't really pleased, unhappy, about the message on the internet... I think that was disrespectful to Chicago, and that is not the message I want from the players, because I want this football club -- I want this team -- to be humble, to work hard, and to try to perform and win games, and not to spending too much time with social media and sending negative messages that don't reflect the football club. Because it is important for me to send the message, and it is important for them to understand that the message they are sending is bigger than themself, and I don't want that to have a negative impact on the team. But bigger than the team, is to the football club-- we're not talking about the football club, we're talking about the groundsmen, the people who are working in the office, because that doesn't reflect who we are as a football club. And this is why they haven''t taken part of the game today."
If I were a Chicago Fire fan, I would have considered that video quite dismissive, and particularly irksome given that the casual diss came from two players who have proven next to nothing in Major League Soccer.
We fully expect Lopez and Shelton to maintain total radio silence between now and next Saturday's road tilt against Columbus. But we want to know what YOU think-- did Vieira's punishment fit the crime? The comments are yours, America.