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[av_heading heading=’MLS Insight’ tag=’h3′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

[av_heading heading=’Analysis of Vieira’s New York City defeat’ tag=’h1′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Iain Macintosh

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In the first six games of his managerial career, we have seen innovation and ambition from Patrick Vieira. But it’s been five games since we’ve seen a win. New York City’s opening day triumph against Chicago Fire remains their only victory of the campaign. In the dying moments of injury time last weekend, they threaten to snatch a draw in Columbus, Ohio. Had they done so, it would have been the heist of the year

Columbus Crew had not won all season, but they should have had this game sewn up before half time. Vieira has used an old fashioned W-M formation to deal with the narrowness of his home stadium, but on the road it’s a different story.

He wants to dominate games, he wants to push forward and that’s admirable. His decision to play a high line with attacking full backs and little in the way of cover was bold.

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But his refusal to change that game plan in spite of repeated demonstrations of its vulnerabilities was bordering on recklessness.

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Image from Wyscout  Match Report

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Gregg Berhalter’s team took the lead after just seven minutes when Federico Higuain, brother of Gonzalo, found Justin Meram out on the left with an incisive, quick-witted pass. Meram duly cut the ball back from the touchline, finding the oncoming Ethan Finlay who smashed it into the back of the net. This was the first time that the three of them had combined to cut New York apart. It would not be the last.

Five minutes later, Higuan again found the gap between Andoni Iraola and Fred Brillant. Miram cut the ball back again, only for Kai Kamara to sidefoot wide from close range. Within a minute, Kamara had gone close again, chasing down the dawdling New York keeper Josh Saunders and nearly sliding the ball into the net. The miss would cost Columbus.

New York restarted play, Andrea Pirlo found Iraola on the right and no-one closed him down. The Spaniard had all the time he needed to fix his coordinates, loft in a cross and watch happily as David Villa headed it home. Vieira’s side were back in the game. Somehow.

By now, a pattern was emerging. New York would push up and lose the ball and then Higuain, the bustling, dynamic attacking midfielder, would look up and push the ball into acres of space for either Meram, Finlay or Kamara to chase. What was unclear was why Vieira continued to let it happen. Perhaps he was waiting for half-time. Yes, that was bound to be it. You don’t want to make dramatic changes in the middle of the half, do you? He was waiting for half time. Except he wasn’t.

New York came out after the break and continued to make the same mistakes. There was some method in the madness. The intention seemed to be to push the fullbacks up and in, dragging markers and creating space for the wide men. But it didn’t work.

Three minutes into the second half, Ronaldo Matarrita picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove all the way to the edge of the box, releasing a shot that Steve Clark saved comfortably. But that left a Matarrita-shaped gap in the New York defence and Columbus moved quickly to exploit it. Kamara received the ball in so much space that he must have acutally been quite lonely.

Taking slightly more time than was necessary and yet still not enough to cause a problem, he lashed the ball into the bottom corner. Kamara had seven shots in this match and only one of them was on target. It was this one.
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The introduction of Kwadwo Poku gave New York more of an edge up front, but the same problems remained at the back.

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Still Higuain was allowed to run the show. Still he continued to thread balls through the New York lines. It was only a matter of time before the lead was extended. Obviously it was Higuain who started the move, slipping the ball out to the right where Finlay quickly left Mataritta in his rear view mirror. Kamara charged forward, taking two defenders with him. Meram arrived late and finished the move.

A soft penalty for New York, converted by Villa, gave the final moments a hint of unwarranted tension, while the referee confused everyone by dismissing Michael Parkhurst instead of Tyson Wahl. That decision was later corrected. But correcting New York’s issues may prove a little more problematic. When asked what he would do to resolve the poor form, Vieira had a simple answer.

“Keep working,” he smiled. “Keep working even harder.”

It may take more than that.
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Iain Macintosh
Is a football writer for ESPNFC and the editor of  The Set Pieces

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