New York City FC traveled north to Toronto to take on the Eastern Conference leaders in hopes of moving up in the table. A win in Toronto would have put NYCFC even with the reds atop the Eastern Conference table.
Patrick Vieira was forced to change his lineup following the red card suspension for Yangel Herrera. Andrea Pirlo was the benefactor of Herrera’s suspension as he found himself playing the deep midfield role for NYCFC. In a surprising change, Vieira opted to keep Jonathan Lewis out of the lineup, despite the praise heaped on the rookie by Vieira himself and instead it was Cult hero Tommy McNamara who earned the start.
Otherwise the team remained unchanged from their last two games as NYC are still dealing with a litany of injuries.
White – Brillant – Callens – Sweat
Moralez – Pirlo – Ring – McNamara
Harrison – Villa
— NYCFC Nation (@NYCFCNation) July 30, 2017
NYCFC struggled to break down the Toronto FC defense as the reds would play with 9 men behind the ball, leaving only Altidore and Giovinco in attack.
Jack Harrison was a focal point of the attack early on with the young Englishman slipping past the Toronto defense and being targeted with long balls.
There was a noticeable lack of pressure on the left side, leaving many wondering if Jonathan Lewis’ presence would have made the difference early on.
The Pirlo Paradox
Patrick Vieira has steadfastly defended his 38-year-old midfielder throughout his tenure in New York. With Pirlo on the field his team will “create more opportunities than they concede” he would repeat time and time again, seemingly hoping to fool himself into believing it.
Andrea Pirlo mustered 1 goal and 11 assists over 32 games last season. However, during the offseason NYCFC brought in younger and faster players, giving Vieira the tools he needed to have a dynamic attack. Andrea Pirlo has never been a dynamic midfielder but his incredible vision and passing have made him a force to be reckoned with. His specific tool set which had been a boon for the slower and more deliberate NYCFC of 2016 has quickly become a noticeable hindrance for 2017’s NYCFC.
Andrea Pirlo could only drop his head as his countryman Giovinco found space and fired in a beautiful shot to put Toronto up in the 32nd minute.
Giovinco’s second goal in the second half was all Vieira needed to see before pulling the aging midfielder. Despite his mantra of the team creating more opportunities with Pirlo on the field, when NYC needed to create scoring opportunities Pirlo was taken off for forward Sean Okoli. Unfortunately the change was too little, too late.
Lack of Bite on Offense
While Jack Harrison did his best to catch the TFC defense off-guard and David Villa did his best to try to force some scoring opportunities New York City could not break through the defense. NYC were limited to taking long-range shots and hoping for the best.
An hour into the match Vieira seemed to realized that McNamara was largely ineffective on the left side and brought on Jonathan Lewis in his stead. The onus on offense after being down 2-0 forced New York City to spread their defense thin and take risks they normally wouldn’t have.
Smelling blood in the water, Toronto pressed on and pushed for more goals, Jozy Altidore picked one up on a questionable penalty and that was enough for Vieira to recognize defeat as he pulled his star forward David Villa in favor of rookie Kwame Awuah. It was the nail in the coffin for NYCFC, Raheem Edwards found the back of the net before the 80th minute pushing the lead to 4-0.
NYCFC were awarded a penalty in stoppage time with a look to a consolation goal that would spoil the shutout, but Maxi Moralez skied the shot in an attempt that was a perfect analogy for New York City’s performance today.
An ugly loss for NYCFC who wouldn’t get anything going on offense and as a result were picked clean on defense.
A glance out at the window…
With Khiry Shelton, Ronald Matarrita, Maxime Chanot, Miguel Camargo, Rodney Wallace, and James Sands all injured one can only wonder how long it will be before the arrival of reinforcements. Matarrita and Camargo are long term injuries who are unlikely to see the field again during the regular season.
Claudio Reyna and the NYCFC front office have been inconspicuous during the summer transfer window, without the slightest hint of any incoming moves. Patrick Vieira stated last week that the team was looking for help in defense and on the wings but so far that help has not come. Barring a retirement from Andrea Pirlo, NYCFC have their hands tied when it comes to making moves for big name playmakers. So if any help were to arrive, it would likely be a depth move only.
NYCFC will look to try and pick up points in their next match on August 6th against the Red Bulls after being shut out for only the second time this season.