A full three hours before the final whistle sealed a 2-1 defeat, questions swirled about Vieira’s squad selection. Some player rotation was expected — New York City FC was facing its second road game in 72 hours, with another coming this Sunday — but the gaffer’s concoction was more poison than panacea on the night.
Miguel Camargo at right wing? Invisible, and painfully so. Tommy McNamara out on the left? We applaud his donning of the captain’s armband, but he didn’t acquit himself by squandered chances on goal and an inability to combine well with his teammates, particularly would-be string-pullers Andrea Pirlo and Maxi Moralez.
RJ Allen, along with Pirlo, found himself fully taken advantage of in space by willing opposition. Ugo Okoli, manning the center forward spot, produced a rough-hewn opening goal, but his fourth-minute tally proved to be anything but a sign of things to come.
While first-choice operators David Villa and Jack Harrison came off the bench and immediately made New York City kinder to the eye, it wasn’t nearly enough to mount a fightback— or justify Vieira’s starting XI.
“I think the selection of the team was wrong,” he admitted after the match.
“It’s me who is responsible for the loss today because the selection of the team wasn’t good enough to compete against Salt Lake,” he reiterated in the postgame press conference. “I take full responsibility for the performance of the team today.”
“We were a little bit too deep and Salt Lake wanted it more than us. This is unacceptable.”
The idea of “wanting it more” is rather often a crass, fluffy platitude in the annals of sporting lingo, but if you watched the game Wednesday evening, you could see the proof. Moralez was a bridge to nowhere. Pirlo played with a level of urgency befitting a Sunday pub league. While Villa and Harrison, along with the indomitable Alex Ring, ought to be excused from the worst of the criticism, the fact as such doesn’t make for any consolation.
This wasn’t a “must-win” game, as these things go. This wasn’t a make-or-break moment in NYCFC’s season. But it was a massive disappointment in light of what’s to come: two more road games on the trot against prolific opponents, and none more ominous than the fantastic beasts set to host the Boys in Blue this Sunday, the Lions of Orlando City. In eight total meetings to date, New York City has bested the Floridians just one single time. With two losses to OCSC already this year, it will take more than effort alone effort to get Vieira’s team back on track.
And of course, if the team appears Sunday the way it did last night, the ride will fairly fly off the rails.
THREE THINGS I THINK
- New York City have shown that they can win without David Villa in the XI, but I don’t know if they can win without Jack Harrison, who throws opponents off-balance as much as anyone in MLS.
- Moralez and Pirlo don’t complement one another stylistically.
- Isn’t it kind of amazing that a team that consistently starts Ethan White and has given key minutes to Ben Sweat and RJ Allen still hasn’t conceded more than twice in one game, and has only surrendered 1.18 per contest?