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(Photo by Steve Conrad - Double G Media)

(Photo by Steve Conrad – Double G Media)

PHILADELPHIA, PA — NYCFC heads down Interstate-95 to South Philadelphia in an attempt to put last week’s forgettable performance against D.C. United behind them as they take on their rivals from Philly, the Union.

It is safe to say NYCFC has not gotten off to the start they wanted. However, their 1-2-1 record doesn’t accurately paint the picture, as NYCFC has looked dominating in the majority of their games. In his second year as head coach, Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira has been able to play possession football while tightening up his defense, which was a travesty a year ago.

Before this Good Friday contest kicks-off, here are three things to watch for as NYCFC looks to come away with three points:

  1. Can the right-back, whomever it may be, play well?
  • Over the past few weeks, Vieira has experimented with different right-backs, and formations, to compensate for the fact that he doesn’t have a mainstay at the position. Last week, Frenchman Frederic Brillant got the nod in what was a hybrid five-back formation and performed poorly, as his defensive error in the second-half lead to a goal for D.C. United, which proved to be the difference in the game. Will Ethan White get another chance at right-back? If so, can White provide a few more overlaps while continuing to improve his comfortability on the ball?  
  1. Will Pirlo last more than sixty minutes?
  • Over the past few matches, NYCFC’s Italian Maestro, Andrea Pirlo, has been subbed off rather early in the second half by Vieira. In post-match press conferences, Vieira claims that, “he just felt he needed something different” in the team which is 100% fair and valid. However, the lingering questions of: Is Pirlo not fulfilling the defensive requirements of the CDM role? Or, is the 37-year olds fitness dwindling? If he plays well like his manager suggests, will he make it further than sixty minutes?
  1. Can NYCFC avoid gifting away a goal to the Union?
  • “With our playstyle, things like that are going to happen,” said Patrick Vieira in a press conference following the match against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 1st, in which NYCFC handed San Jose striker Marcos Urena a goal in the early stages of the game due to poor play in the defensive third. Over the course of the past few games, it is clear that NYCFC can play possession soccer. But, just because they are playing the way they want to doesn’t mean that NYCFC is going to cough up golden opportunities for their opponents to tap in relatively easy goals. In this game against the Union, NYCFC needs to be calm, cool, and collected in the back and needs to avoid the crucial errors.

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