Chemistry and toughness may no longer be an issue for New York City FC.
For the first-time in their young franchise’s history, New York City FC rides into Kansas City for their upcoming matchup against Sporting KC with momentum behind them – full-on momentum.
NYCFC currently rides a franchise-record four-match win streak heading into Sunday night’s match against Sporting (8 p.m. ET, FS1) looking like the team that plays the “beautiful football” that head coach Patrick Vieira said they would in his introductory conference in the winter. Of course, even he will tell you that the season’s objective is far from complete, or perfect.
“I think we can always improve and having four wins, on the road, that gives us confidence and a happy camp to keep working and keep doing what we believe,” Vieira said after a clutch 1-0 win over the New England Revolution. “I think coming here wasn’t an easy place to take the three points…I think we showed a lot of personality. We stick to our principles. We managed to play from the back. We create so many chances, we create so many situation, we really had control of the game.”
The Blues have been a completely different side since their 7-0 blowout by the Red Bulls back on May 21 at Yankee Stadium. Whether it’s been in the attacking third, creating chances and finding the back of the net more often than they did to start the year, or in the defensive third with the backline making key stops on runs and goalkeeper Josh Saunders making one key save after another, NYCFC has looked a lot more confident and cleaner on the pitch, but more importantly, they’ve looked more together, more cohesive and it’s that change in their game that has propelled them to first in the East (8-5-6; 30 points) and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
Patrick Vieira said that he wants his team to represent the city on the pitch: NYCFC has played a much grittier, aggressive style since the 7-0 loss, and even more so since their 3-2 win against the Union after the Copa America break, the first win of the current four-match win streak.
NYCFC’s big-three of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo have stepped up their games immensely. Villa leads MLS in scoring with 12 goals, Lampard has scored his first three goals of the season during the current four-match win streak and Andrea Pirlo has been more effective in the midfield setting up attacks and has been a lot more physical on the defensive side of the ball.
All three scored for the first time in franchise history in their win over Philadelphia last month.
For those wondering if both Lampard and Pirlo can work together in the midfield, at their age especially, Vieira agrees they can.
“You are talking about two players who may have the best record in world football,” he said in an interview with CBS’ Glenn Crooks.
“We’re talking about two players who managed to win the Champions League and have played hundreds of games in top-level leagues and international level. Their understanding of the game – their brain works more quickly than everyone else. So they might not have the legs, but they have the brain that other plays don’t have. They make it look easy. I’m really pleased with what people called old players. They are the heart of this team and more than happy with what they’re doing.”
He added after the win on Wednesday that “[NYCFC] is doing well, of course, because of those three players.”
The emergence of rookie Jack Harrison has also helped spark NYCFC’s current run.
The 19-year-old midfielder has already tallied his first two goals, assists, and Team of the Week nods. He was named the MLS Player of the Week on Wednesday for the first time. Since his arrival, NYCFC’s attacking front of Villa, Harrison and Tommy McNamara playing the other wing has given NYCFC the type of attack that Vieira wants and that Villa can work with.
Going into their match on Sunday, the Blues will look to avenge a 1-0 loss to the hands of SKC at Yankee Stadium on March 28, 2015, the first loss of their well-known 11-match winless streak they suffered early on in the inaugural campaign.
Although NYCFC is riding high on a four-win streak (three-straight clean sheets) and a 272-minute shutout streak (also a franchise best) Sporting comes into Sunday night’s matchup riding high after a thrilling 3-2 win over Columbus with Matt Besler scoring the game-winner with just seconds left in second-half stoppage time. SKC is also unbeaten in four-straight matches.