For the first time this season, New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis sat all three of his star designated players – it didn’t just work, the Blues looked better without them on the field. So, the plan should be to play the “regular” guys against Toronto, right?
By Jeff Weisinger
While losing what remains to be the glimmer of hope of a postseason run that New York City FC has left, head coach Jason Kreis did what many thought he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do all season: sit his big three designated players.
But, despite eventually losing 2-1 at FC Dallas, he did just that – David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo sat for most of the second half while Patrick Mullins, Mix Diskerud and Kwadwo Poku took over in the final 24-plus minutes last Saturday night.
The result? Not only did NYCFC score their lone goal without their star players on the pitch, the Blues were more productive in the attacking third, creating several more chances in the latter stages of the match compared to the first 66 minutes.
“We had good energy,” goalkeeper Josh Saunders mentioned. “We kept them pinned in the half; they couldn’t get out. We limited their chances and created some chances of our own.
Captain David Villa sat out the entire second half with a hamstring injury, but both Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo were benched for Poku and Diskerud, respectively in the 66th minute.
“I think that we are always going to expect the players that come off the bench to make a difference,” Kreis said after the loss to Dallas. “One of our biggest disappointments in our last match, we brought two fresh guys in at the end of the game to bring a new, fresh energy to the match, and they actually looked more fatigued than the players who had played 60 or 70 minutes, so we made a point of really getting at those guys and telling everybody they need to be ready and making positive contributions when they come in. So, we’re really pleased with the energy they brought to the game.”
Villa is questionable for Wednesday night’s do-or-die matchup against Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and with both Pirlo and Lampard playing as shells of themselves, even though Lampard had a decent 30 minute stretch against Dallas, Kreis should be smart and take a bet on the rest of his team, letting the DP’s sit, or come off of the bench against Toronto.
Since Pirlo’s debut in NYCFC’s 5-3 win over Orlando City on July 26, NYCFC has won just one of their last seven matches.
Lampard’s eventual arrival didn’t help the Blues either at all. He didn’t debut until August 1 and has been a non-factor throughout his time at NYCFC, but started to show some improvements in fitness and is starting to adjust to the aggressive play in MLS.
If Kreis decides to listen to reason, and base Wednesday night’s Starting XI on recent results, he should keep Lampard and Pirlo on the bench.
This is a team that, with the playoffs just about out of sight, should see what they have in guys like Mullins, McNamara and Poku, especially in a situation where just about nothing is on the line. Neither of the three have seen as many minutes as they probably should have and, if they had a chance to truly play and develop as starters, could’ve been more productive than their numbers show. They’re also young and the potential future of the franchise, so it would be smart, especially at this point of the season in the certain scenario NYCFC is in, to develop for 2016 and beyond.
NYCFC has outscored Toronto 6-4 overall this season, with both teams playing to a 4-4 draw in their last meeting on July 12th in the Bronx. With the current state of the NYCFC backline, and the lack of pressure on the attacking front, the Blues are likely to see whatever may be left of their playoff hopes get blown away by the Reds.
While the talk of NYCFC is about their aging superstars, this is a team that has a potentially solid young core that needs the time now to actually push this team into the playoffs in 2016.
At this point, it’s time to forget about the present and the soon-to-be disappointing near future and prepare for next season. As long as Kreis still wants (or haves) a job in the Big Apple.
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