— New York City FC (@NYCFC) July 25, 2016
Patrick Vieira’s NYCFC is missing one particular characteristic needed to push them forward: the right attitude.
When New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira officially took over the Pigeons in January, his goal was to get NYCFC to play “beautiful football” and to get his team to represent the city it plays in.
So far, he’s sort of halfway there. That is, until last Sunday’s 4-1 loss in the final New York Derby match to the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, ending their hot run in their previous six matches.
“It’s a difficult league to go and win game after game, tough places to go and play,” midfielder Frank Lampard said.
“Playing away from home, in this heat, we didn’t play our best and we lose the game.”
“But when you look at the standing and you see we’re top, the difference from last year when we were struggling all year really, you can take confidence from that.”
Despite the immense difference in chemistry that the Red Bulls have over NYCFC so far, there are several constants that the Jersey boys bring to every derby match: physicality, intensity, and more importantly a sense of attitude. The Red Bulls always seem to get up to take on NYCFC.
The one thing that Vieira’s boys carry with them is humility, a concept that Vieira has pushed upon the club all season. NYCFC seems, now more so than ever, to treat the New York Derby as just another match.
But it’s that sense of attitude, arrogance and a sense of physicality that has helped the Red Bulls take five of the first six matches against their new Hudson River rivals, outscoring them a whopping 18-5 in the rivalry’s first two years – highlighted, of course, by the 7-0 demolition at Yankee Stadium in late May.
While NYCFC still sits atop the Eastern Conference table (9-7-6; 33 points) just two points ahead of the Red Bulls and three ahead of Philadelphia (who have two games in hand), they’ll need to become a bit more physical and grow a sense of attitude if they plan to hold onto that conference’s top seed and make a strong playoff push.
New York’s most successful teams had that sense of attitude, one of which could be confused with arrogance and it made opponents kind of fear them – we’re talking as far back as Pele’s New York Cosmos of the 70’s, the Yankees of the late 90’s and 2000’s, and Lawrence Taylor’s New York Giants of the 80’s and early 90’s.
That attitude and physicality has to begin with the backline. They cannot allow guys like Bradley Wright-Philips to just walk in, untouched, like he did in the 20th minute on Sunday for the Red Bulls opening goal, let alone for most of his goals throughout the young history of the New York Derby. Throughout the six matches, the Red Bulls have run up and down the pitch against NYCFC’s backline and midfield, controlled possession and kept NYCFC chasing the match time and time again – Sunday being the latest example. The Red Bulls had 60 percent possession and completed 84 percent of their passes on the day.
Yet, the attitude adjustment will also be ignited with the man who, ironically enough, is preaching humility. Vieira had more shots at Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch in his post-game press conference than his team did throughout the match.
“We are completely different as a person and as a character,” Vieira said. “This is part of the derby. He wants to win. I want to win. Sometimes there’s tension. I think there are two different clubs acting in different ways. This is part of the derby.
“I think today [referee Mark Geiger] made more decisions in favor of the Red Bulls because the manager has been crying all the week.”
There’s still hope for NYCFC to get back on the hot track they were on. In fact, NYCFC has responded well after losses this summer.
Since their blowout defeat to the Red Bulls back on May 21, they went 4-1-1 in their following six matches and haven’t lost back-to-back MLS matches since April 16 and 23, losing to the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union, respectively. They’ve been on a tear since their U.S. Open Cup loss to the New York Cosmos back on June 15, losing just twice since, including Sunday’s loss.