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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]

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[av_heading tag=’h3′ padding=’10’ heading=’NEW YORK CITY FC 0 -1 ORLANDO CITY SC ‘ color=’custom-color-heading’ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ custom_font=’#ffffff’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=”][/av_heading]

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Author: Iain Macintosh

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To his eternal credit, Cyle Larin barely celebrates the goal that gives Orlando City victory in New York. But this is not because, as the reigning Rookie of the Year and a man who scored 17 goals last season, he is blasé about the art of scoring. No, it is because the ball has literally landed on his face and gone in.

New York City manager Patrick Vieira has worked tirelessly to succeed where his predecessor Jason Kreis failed and to take this team to the play-offs, but all of his hard work has been undone by an utterly avoidable early goal. It is Orlando’s Rafael Ramos who causes the trouble, breaking into space down the right and tossing in a high cross that goalkeeper Jay Saunders completely mis-reads.

The 35 year old swings a hand out at the ball, diverting its flight only slightly. Larin flicks his head back instinctively and the ball bounces off it and loops languidly into the back of the net. This is the real problem for those who try to tame football.

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You can spend big, you can work hard, you can be clever, but you can still be undone by something completely ridiculous. And Vieira has certainly been clever.

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New York City play in the Yankee Stadium which, if you’re a baseball fan, you’ll know is in the shape of a diamond, not a rectangle, and this is problematic. It means that the football pitch sits awkwardly across the top of the diamond and can only be 70 yards wide, the narrowest in MLS.

It is like playing football in a school corridor. A couple of big strides could take you from the touchline to the penalty area. If Rory Delap was still playing, you suspect that he could take a throw-in from one side of the pitch and smack a fan in the face on the other.

Vieira’s solution is to revert to something not that dissimilar to Herbert Chapman’s W-M formation of the 1920s.

On such a narrow pitch, three centre-backs can, theoretically at least, cover the same percentage of pitch as a back four. With everything going through the middle because, essentially, everything *is* the middle, a box of two holding players and two attacking players should dominate. With the raw pace of two widemen and the cunning of David Villa up top, it’s a bold tactic and it should have worked. It would have worked too, had it not been for a combination of poor finishing and that ludicrous Larin goal.
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New York City’s football is driven by Andrea Pirlo because, frankly, if you have a Pirlo, you have to let him drive.

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He is slow, he offers nothing defensively and he looks increasingly like Aragorn, son of Arathorn, late in life when he’d rather not be ranging up and down Middle Earth, but sitting in a quiet pub with a good book. But by thunder, he’s still amazing.

He’s like a dad playing with kids, effortlessly pinging balls into the channels for them to clatter after, knowing that they’ll wear themselves out. In the first half, he delivers a corner that goes straight up in the air and returns to earth some time later, landing directly in the path of Mix Diskerud at the back of the box who ruins everything by blasting it into the chest of Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
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This is far from New York’s only chance to equalise. The misses quickly pile up, the pick of the bunch being Tony Taylor’s artless swipe on the hour. The ball falls kindly to him, on the corner of the six yard box and with only the goalkeeper to beat, but his shot is abhorrent. He wraps his foot around the ball and drags it far wider than should be possible from that angle. Substitute Steven Mendoza hits the post as the game enters its final stages.

But while New York were arguably worth a point, Orlando, coached by former Everton heartthrob Adrian Heath, have two excellent chances themselves. Vieira has Saunders to thank on the half hour, the goalkeeper making amends for his earlier error by bravely storming off his line to dive into the oncoming Larin and punch a dangerous ball away.
Only Kevin Molino will know how he managed to miss an open goal in the 62nd minute. With New York City’s defenders caught out of position, Orlando break, Saunders is taken out of the equation and Molino is presented with the ball on the penalty spot and with no-one in front of him. Inexplicably, he chooses to take, not one, but two entirely unnecessary touches and, of course, he squanders the chance.

But it ends 1-0, the Larin goal enough to deliver Vieira’s first defeat as a manager.

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The former Arsenal star is proving to be an innovative operator in his debut season, but there is still much to be done if he is to reach the post-season.

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Perhaps the return of Frank Lampard, currently injured, will see some of those wasted chances converted.
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Iain Macintosh
Is a football writer for ESPNFC and the editor of  The Set Pieces

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