Andrea Pirlo - pointing - closeup

PURCHASE, N.Y. – On Sunday, Andrea Pirlo was substituted out for just the third time since joining New York City FC last July. The Italian legend walked off to rapturous applause, leaving the pitch for Federico Bravo in the 72nd minute of a 0-0 draw with the Chicago Fire at Yankee Stadium.


It was the first time Pirlo didn’t register a shot this season. His biggest impact came when he played a perfect back post corner to David Villa, who bounced a first-time attempt into Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson.


But arguably Pirlo’s greatest impact this season has been when partnered with Bravo in NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira’s 3-2-2-3 system.


“I think it’s a good partnership because Bravo is really dynamic, really aggressive on the ball and of course Andrea is really comfortable on the ball, he can make the right decision,” Vieira said. “This is a really interesting partnership.”


Vieira couldn’t put those two together Sunday because he was forced late to change his lineup, and formation, when Ethan White suffered a hamstring injury in pregame warm-ups. Vieira opted for four in the back and instead, Pirlo was left to serve as the sole defensive midfielder behind Tommy McNamara and Mix Diskerud. The result was too many gaps in the midfield, according to Vieira.


“We have to be a bit more tight with Mix and Tommy,” Vieira said. “It is one of the aspects of the game we need to improve.”


In true Pirlo fashion, the Italian isn’t sweating the details about what formation NYCFC utilizes or who he plays with in the midfield.


“For me, nothing changes,” Pirlo said. “It’s important to have a formation that’s right for the team. Your teammates can change, but the position of the team should always be the same. The mentality should always be the same. … It’s not important the mode of which we play, but how we interpret it.”


As for playing under Vieira, Pirlo said it has been enjoyable.


“It’s going great,” Pirlo said. “We are learning lots. We have to get familiar to his way of playing.  We have to find ways to improve from the negatives of this game. It takes time, but we are on the right road.”