COLUMBUS, Ohio – He’s been a fixture in the New York City FC lineup since signing as a Designated Player on July 6, 2015.
But Andrea Pirlo was an unused substitute Saturday night for the first time since May, 2016 and New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira saw 19-year-old Manchester City loanee Yangel Herrera play an influential role in a 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew SC.
What does this mean to NYCFC’s midfield trio going forward though?
"I know what I can get from Yangel and I know what I can get from Andrea regarding the game, and that’s the reason why I made the change,” he said. “The next game we’ll have to look at it again and make a decision. This time it’s Andrea, maybe in another game it will be someone else.”
For Vieira, the more mobile 19-year-old presented a better option against a Crew SC attack that featured Federico Higuain, Ola Kamara, Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay than the 37-year-old Pirlo, who has started all but three matches since joining the club.
“When you want to be a little more solid defensively, that’s why I chose Yangel,” he said. “When we have a time when we’re going to have more possession, where we want players to create and build from the back, I would go with Andrea. I would want maybe to go with Maxi, Yangel and Tommy [McNamara].”
Moving forward, Vieira was non-committal about his plans, but made it clear that Saturday’s look is an option he now feels comfortable with.
“I don’t want to make any decisions now; we just finished the game,” he said. “When you analyze all the games we’ve played so far, Andrea playing with Maxi and Ring, has been really good – fantastic – and I think Yangel did really well today.”
Ultimately, Vieira sees success without Pirlo as a good sign.
He said he wants his team “to make it really difficult for me to choose the starting XI” each week, and said NYCFC earned the three points on the road because of the intensity and work he’s seen in training.
“That’s why, since the first day, I’ve believed that we have a better squad than last year,” he said. “I see them working every day in training, and because of the quality of players we had last year and the new ones we’ve (brought), we are much better as a team and a squad. This is really good for me.”