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What are Vieira’s squad rotation options?

As New York City hits the home stretch, we look at how Vieira can keep key players fresh

MLS: New York Red Bulls at New York City FC Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York City’s gearing up for the home stretch of its 2016 campaign. Last night, New York City’s starting eleven were visibly spent in the first half. Three games in seven days, and traveling a total of 1,391 miles in that span, will do that to you. But it’s more than that. The 37-year-old Andrea Pirlo and the 35-year-old David Villa have started 18 and 19 games, respectively. Pirlo’s logged 1,561 minutes already; Villa’s logged 1,726 minutes. Do the math: that comes out to 17 full games for Pirlo and 19 full games for Villa.

And on down the squad. That’s a lot of mileage to have accrued at that age. You’re tempting injury through overuse, and there’s fatigue to contend with. Understandably, manager Patrick Vieira’s got his favored starting eleven, but he’s got to start giving players like Pirlo, Allen, and Villa a rest. That’s where the squad rotation comes in.

I mentioned in my recap last night that one area where he could stand to pay more attention was in his squad rotation. Eight of the remaining 14 games will be played on the road, and not close by, either.

Which players could be part of that rotation? Let’s start by setting some parameters. Clearly, some players are out of favor -- Mix Diskerud is the best example here. Others have simply just...failed to feature. Diego Martinez fits the bill. Finally, some players found favor, got injured, and have since been unable to crack the starting lineup. That’s where Federico Bravo comes in.

Here’s the roster. Names in bold are internationals; names in italics are DPs. Let’s stipulate that no matter how badly some of us may want to see it happen, Josh Saunders is the starting goalkeeper.

There’s some interesting possibilities here, should Vieira want to explore them.

First: do they want to add anyone in the transfer window? It opened last Monday, and closes on August 3rd. New York City have 26 players on the roster; that gives them two roster spots to play with. They’ve got eleven international players, so they’d have to likely let someone go if they wanted to go that route.

My hunch is no, unless that addition is someone like, say, center back AJ Soares, who can contribute immediately. So that leaves the options on the roster.

That said, what’s a lineup that could contribute right away? Let’s say the worst happened, and Vieira suddenly found himself without Pirlo or Villa — or even both?

Here’s the beauty of this lineup. It’s composed of players who’ve all started games this season, at one point or another. Yes, even Taylor. Though nominally it’s a three-man backline of Matarrita, Hernandez, and Allen, Iraola basically acts as a centre back as well. Lopez and Bravo combine as your holding/defensive mids.

Meanwhile, Harrison, Lampard, and McNamara provide your offensive spark, and Taylor acts as the tip of the spear.

Is this the best lineup that the Blues can field? Of course not. But it’s definitely a lineup that can win games, especially against a Chicago or a Houston or an Orlando. We can say that because we’ve seen the players in this lineup play and compete. There’s no need to field our best eleven players every single game. That’s nonsense. No team in any league in any sport does that.

I think Vieira’s done an excellent job this season. He’s adapted well to the league thus far, he’s improved the team measurably in every respect that matters, and if they make the playoffs, they’re probably going to be a tough out. But his lack of squad rotation - and relatedly, how haphazardly it occurs - continues to puzzle me.