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Birk Risa: How the defender transforms NYCFC's attack

The center-back is an elite passer whose long balls open the field of play.

In Birk Risa, New York City FC have something the team was sorely missing the first 24 games this season: A player who wears a headband.

Even better, the headband is thin and worn high in the style of Jack Grealish, Antoine Griezmann, and Luka Modric. Not only does the left-footed central defender bring balance to an NYCFC backline dominated by right-footed players, his choice in headwear brings a Continental flair to the team. Finally, this NYCFC are looking like a complete squad. 

Another facet of Risa’s game grabbed our attention after watching his MLS debut on Sunday: He’s an elite passer. His ability to send the ball deep into the attacking third through long diagonal passes that land deliciously at the feet of the right winger was exhilarating. One moment, the ball was at the top of NYCFC’s box on the left; the next, it was landing softly in the attacking third on the right.

In that game, Risa played nine accurate long balls out of eleven attempts. He not only led all players in accurate long balls on at Citi Field that Sunday night, he notched the most of any defender in MLS that matchday. 

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