The NYCFC Symphony may need a new ‘Maestro’ in the midfield.
Today in Toronto, Andrea Pirlo had one of his better performances for NYCFC. However, one error erased what was a good shift by the Italian, thus re-emerging the discussion of him being a liability.
In the 32nd minute, Toronto FC’s star Italian, Sebastian Giovinco, received a pass at the top of the NYCFC box. Giovinco, who could run laps around his former teammate at Juventus, made one quick move past the 38-year-old and then curled a beauty past NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
To be fair to Pirlo, Giovinco is one of the most feared strikers in the MLS because of that agility and technique. If you put a number of other midfielders in that position, it is likely the former MLS MVP gets that shot off. But, the space that Giovinco had shouldn’t have existed for that long, as Pirlo should have closed him down quicker.
Immediately following the goal, the Twitter world, including ESPN’s Taylor Twellman, made it known to the world how they stand on Pirlo in the NYCFC midfield.
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) July 30, 2017
Throughout the match, Pirlo did indeed provide beautiful over the top through balls to NYCFC attackers, some even leaving the ESPN commentators in awe. However, that wonderful distribution was all but forgotten due to his defensive errors.
Pirlo left the field in the 68th minute with NYCFC down 2-0. When the final whistle sounded, the Boys in Blue were down by four, thus indicating that Pirlo wasn’t the sole liability defensively today.
Following the match, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira stated that it is frustrating being an inconsistent side.
Vieira: "The way we play against Chicago, a man down & the way we played today, it's difficult for me to accept our lack of consistency."
— NYCFC Nation (@NYCFCNation) July 30, 2017
Despite the Frenchman talking about the entire team, Pirlo is a prime example of that inconsistency. Last season, Pirlo had his moments of being one of the best midfielders in the league. This season, you rarely see those flashes and you primarily see a former star running out of gas.
Is there a replacement for the Italian? For the next few weeks, not really.
The Options To Replace Pirlo
If Yangel Herrera gets injured (out due to suspension against Toronto) or any Alexander Ring or Maxi Moralez, Pirlo or Mikey Lopez will be the choices going forward. Tommy McNamara would be an option, but due to the injury of Rodney Wallace, Vieira will most likely stick with McNamara at left-wing.
There is a chance that youngster Jonathan Lewis could start at left-wing, thus pushing McNamara to the midfield. If that is the case, Alexander Ring will slide into the CDM role, booting Pirlo to the bench, as Ring continues to extend his MLS-leading tackles tally this season.
August Doesn’t Look Bright If Any Injury Occurs
Based on where Vieira has continued to deploy his designated player in the midfield, Pirlo likely will continue to only get opportunities at the CDM position. There is the option to put Pirlo higher up in the midfield, but the Italian’s lack of desire to be a box-to-box midfielder seemingly nixes that opportunity. If that is the case, NYCFC will struggle to cope defensively if Pirlo is in the team.
Pirlo’s defensive ailments are obvious and impossible to ignore anymore. The World Cup winner does still possess that potent ability to deliver balls across the field. But, that isn’t enough to make up for his defensive weaknesses that continue to plague NYCFC.
With the high-pressing New York Red Bulls coming across the river next Sunday, NYCFC could be in for a long night if Pirlo is starting at CDM. Plus, NYCFC has a long trip to face the Galaxy in Los Angeles the following week, before the come back to face the Revolution and the Red Bulls in New Jersey.
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