BRONX, N.Y. — When New York City FC defeated Orlando City SC at Yankee Stadium in March, it was a chance for the club to prove early in the season they can win without David Villa, who missed that match with a calf injury.
On Saturday night, a healthy Villa was left out of the starting XI against the Lions and NYCFC won again, this time, 3-0. It was a decision the NYCFC captain wasn’t happy about, and that fact pleased NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira.
“Top players will never accept being on the bench. It’s why they had the career that they had,” Vieira said after the match. “I think I have a really good relationship with David. We talk a lot and as a coach I have to think about the team first before thinking about the individual. It’s a tough decision, but this is part of my job and David, Maxime [Chanot], all the players who are on the bench are not happy to be on the bench. I will be upset if I find out players on the bench are quite really happy.”
Vieira didn’t come out and say that Villa, who came on for the final 25 minutes, was rested ahead of Wednesday’s fourth-round U.S. Open Cup match against the New York Red Bulls, but if a byproduct is an upset Villa is unleashed at Red Bull Arena, so be it.
“I want them to get frustrated when they don’t play, I want them to come the next day to show their frustration working even harder and this is how the team will do well,” Vieira said. “I think what is important for you guys to understand is we will win as a team and we will lose as a team. Today was David on the bench, Wednesday will be somebody else. But every single decision I will make will be putting the team first.”
Vieira said the decision wasn’t made to punish Villa, who is among the league’s leaders with eight goals. He’s well aware of the quality Villa brings.
“David is David and he’s still one of the top strikers in this league and he’s going to score goals for us,” Vieira said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
But Vieira said he wanted to try something different against Orlando, which is why he went with the combination of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo Inge Berget and Jesus Medina in a formation that best resembled a 3-4-3 in the first half.
“What I wanted to see today was a different combination of players up front, I wanted to see the relationship between Jo, Ismael, Jesus,” Vieira said. “I know that David is a top player, I know what I can get with him. Just for that game, I wanted to try different things and there was some good and some bad.”
Vieira also said it was important to have a “Plan B,” which he utilized in the second half, returning to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation with the insertion of Ben Sweat for Tommy McNamara at halftime.
He saw more fluidity out of his team in the second half, with Tajouri-Shradi and Maxi Moralez scoring in the final 11 minutes.
“I think the switch was really good because players understood the two organizations,” Vieira said. “If you don’t try it, I think it would be difficult to do. I like to challenge players as well and today was really easy to switch from one system to the other one because players get used to it.”
Vieira said Tajouri-Shradi didn’t “play fantastically well,” but he did take his chances. And now the Libyan winger has scored three of his seven goals against Orlando City SC.
“I don’t think so,” Tajouri-Shradi said when asked if he gets up more for the Lions. “I give always my best every game. I want to score against very opposition team, but most important thing is we will continue in that way and we want to take three points every game.”