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Two charts that show why Andrea Pirlo shouldn’t start a game for NYCFC ever again

Because this s*** has got to stop.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The recriminations fairly pelt you from the sky like hailstones following a rough New York City FC loss, none more so this year than yesterday’s 4-0 defeat away at Toronto. And rightfully so.

Though the scoreline doesn’t illustrate just how much the Boys in Blue really were in it until the final half hour when the wheels fell entirely off, faltering like this to the first-place Reds was pain-inducing for a couple of key reasons, including:

  • Maxi Moralez had an easy enough chance to score, his garbage time spot kick flub notwithstanding, and Toronto’s second came off a penalty that should not have been awarded.
  • Alexander Callens now has nothing to show for his standout work at the back.
  • Andrea Pirlo was a complete eyesore and hapless defensive liability, but Patrick Vieira could have rescued us all from that by starting Mikey Lopez instead.

This column is a statistical breakdown of just how much of a drag Pirlo is on NYCFC’s ability to win. But it’s worth noting that in the big picture, it’s not really his fault. What you see has always been what you get from the Maestro. In 2015, this club knew precisely who and what they were bringing in. And today, Patrick Vieira knows exactly what he’s instigating when he trots out Pirlo for anything but a quick cameo at the end of a match already well in hand.

So, if anyone should feel weak in the knees after looking at these numbers, it should be Vieira. Because this is on him.

I chose to focus on two areas that best illustrate how great of an obstacle the Italian star man is to the way New York City has to play in order to win games, as well as how much better they are when he rides the bench: (1) the team’s record when Pirlo starts versus when he doesn’t, and (2) goal differential (“plus/minus” in the hockey and basketball parlance) when Pirlo is on the field as compared to the team’s goal difference overall.

Let’s begin with some splits:

Pirlo’s 2017 Splits: Starter vs. Non-starter

Pirlo starts 10 3 1 6 10 1
Pirlo doesn't start 12 8 3 1 27 2.25
Overall 22 11 4 7 37 1.68

I don’t intend for these numbers, staggering as they are, to come as a surprise— if you’ve watched the team this year, you already know more than just the gist of it. But to see the metrics laid out, boldly and unavoidably, is instructive.

Think about it: the average result for New York City in a Pirlo start is a draw. Exactly one point per match. When he doesn’t start, the Blues are taking a massive 2.25 points per contest; for reference, no team in MLS averages two points per game overall (Toronto is closest at 1.95).

Would NYCFC be top of the league if Vieira had never started Pirlo this year? We can’t know that for sure, though it’s terribly unlikely that they’d be able to keep up a 2.25-per-match clip. But if the team felt zero pressure to start the Maestro — or if there was another midfield DP to call upon who was far better suited to Vieira’s particular philosophy — New York City might very well be considered title favorites.

Let’s move on to Pirlo’s plus/minus over the course of the eleven games he’s played, of which he started ten:

Andrea Pirlo Plus/Minus for 2017

@ Orlando 90 -1 -1 L 1-0
DC United 76 4+ 4+ W 4-0
Montreal 90 0 0 D 1-1
San Jose 63 0 1+ W 2-1 NYC scores winner goal 4 min. after Pirlo exits
@ DC United 74 -2 -1 L 2-1 NYC scores 10 min. after Pirlo exits, still lost
@ Philadelphia 77 1+ 2+ W 2-0
@ Orlando 56 -2 -1 L 2-1 NYC scores 18 min. after Pirlo exits, still lost
@ RSL 90 -1 -1 L 2-1
Minnesota 15 (sub) 0 2+ W 3-1
@ Vancouver 75 0 -1 L 3-2 First time NYC concedes after Pirlo exits
@ Toronto 68 -2 -4 L 4-0 First time NYC concedes twice after Pirlo exits
TOTAL 771 -3 9+

Yikes. Key takeaways here:

  • At +9, NYCFC as a team is twelve goals better overall than Pirlo (-3) is in 771 minutes played. That’s outrageous for any player, whether or not they’re a DP making $5 million.
  • Pirlo is +4 at home in four appearances, and -7 in seven appearances away. He ideally wouldn’t be playing at all — that +4 all came in the same game, March 12th’s home opener against DC — but road games are just a total no-no.
  • He is -2 in the three games in which he has gone the full 90 minutes.
  • It took until July 5th for NYCFC to concede a goal after subbing Pirlo off.

The good news for the Boys in Blue? Yangel Herrera will be back from his one-match red card suspension in time for this weekend’s Hudson River Derby, the only one of the four this year to take place in the friendly confines of the South Bronx. You can bet the farm that ol’ Paddy V won’t be trotting out his Italian wizard for that one.


Because if he does, it’ll take more than just the spirited roar of #ComeOnNewYork to get things sorted— and keep NYCFC from losing back-to-back league games for the first time in 2017.

Finally: no big deal or anything, but Pirlo’s player rating on is 6.66.