New York City FC finding formation, fit as preseason action opens: "The type of game (Vieira) was looking for"

Patrick Vieira and Claudio Reyna - New York City FC - 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine

After 10 days of training, New York City FC played its first competitive game of the preseason Sunday night, beating Florida Gulf Coast University 1-0. New boss Patrick Vieira was pleased with what he saw on several fronts.

“It was a really good game of football. That is the type of the game I was looking for from the first one because it was high intensity and that’s what I asked of the players,” Vieira told Sunday night. “Tactically, they showed some really interesting things I tried to put in place.”

Particularly impressive was new signing Ronald Matarrita. Vieira said the 21-year-old Costa Rican left back “played a perfect game.”

“What I like about him is the intensity he’s putting into the game,” Vieira said. “He’s a player full of energy, he’s going to up and down the width, he has desire to go forward. I like the passion he’s showing when he’s playing and he can be aggressive as well.”

Also in the starting XI on Sunday were David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. The Designated Players have been mainstays at training from day one this preseason.

“They didn’t miss any days – they’re training well, they’re training hard and I’m really happy because they’re showing so much determination to be successful,” Vieira said. “This is for me the most important when I see them work in training and how they are competitive.”

Vieira employed a 4-3-3 formation Sunday, which is different from the tactical approach that the club had last season. Under former manager Jason Kreis, NYCFC alternated between a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 and never used a 4-3-3 formation. Vieira said he’s favored that approach throughout preseason.

“This is the formation I quite like,” he said. “We’re going to use it during the season, but there are other formations I will try throughout the preseason and I will choose which one to adapt to the teams we’re going to play against.”

Vieira, though, still doesn’t have his entire squad in preseason. New signings Diego Martinez and Frederic Brillant are awaiting visas, top draft pick Jack Harrison is nursing an injury and Mix Diskerud and Khiry Shelton are in the US National Team camp.

Vieira said Brillant, in particular, will be key on a young back line.

“He’s really composed, he can step in and technically he’s in a really good level,” Vieira said. “At the back, we are quite young and it was important for us to bring in in someone with more experience.”

Of the team’s younger players, Vieira has liked the play of Tony Taylor, who missed most of last year with an ACL injury, and dynamic midfielder Kwadwo Poku.

“I think he’s got fantastic potential. If we work well with him I think he will be a really important player for us in the next years,” Vieira said of Poku. “I was really pleased with the way he played today, especially what I asked him to do tactically. I’m sure he will grow better and better and stronger and stronger.”

While Vieira and the NYCFC technical staff have focused on revamping a defense that conceded 58 goals, tied for worst in MLS a year ago, there remain four roster spots left to fill. The club is likely to add defensive midfielder Federico Bravo on loan from Boca Juniors and Vieira said they are still actively searching for help.

“We’re not just going to bring players for the sake of bringing players,” Vieira said. “We’re going to bring players who will make the roster better, players who will an impact on the team because every single spot will be very important and every player needs to know they will have a massive part to play during the season.”