NEW YORK – In a conference call ahead of Sunday’s #NYDerby between New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls (12 pm ET, ESPN | TICKETS), NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira spent a few minutes lauding the play of Andoni Iraola in his new role as a deep holding midfielder.
The Spanish veteran, who was previously used as a right back, made the seamless switch after Federico Bravo went down injured and has flourished there.
“He brings us a bit of his tactical knowledge, the game understanding,'' Vieira said of Iraola. "But what I really like about Andoni is he’s really calm, and tactically, he’s really improved the team
“Sometimes having young players in this position is really good because they give you a little bit of field coverage; but at the same time you lose a bit of tactical knowledge. And Andoni, with his experience, this is what he brings us.”
And what Kwadwo Poku, who was sold Wednesday to NASL club Miami FC, didn't bring them, apparently. Poku was one of the breakout stars for NYCFC in its initial season in MLS in 2015, with four goals and seven assists, earning him a spot on the MLS 24 Under 24. But he struggled to earn playing time under new coach Vieira this year, and the coach said moving him benefits both the player and the club.
“It is a good deal for both parts,” Vieira said. “It will be really good for Poku because he will be playing every week. It will be good for us as a football club because we received an offer we couldn’t refuse.”
Poku’s playing time dwindled under Vieira with the Ghanaian midfielder scoring one goal in seven appearances totaling 268 minutes.
“That decision has been made based on football,” Vieira said. “That’s why I think Poku going there will be good because he will be guaranteed to play every weekend and that wasn’t the case here with us. I believe both parts are very happy with the deal.”
Selling Poku, reportedly for a "significant" transfer fee, will allow NYCFC to be active in the transfer window.
“We’re going to start talking with [NYCFC sporting director] Claudio [Reyna] and see which part of the team we really need to improve,” Vieira said. “But yes, we need to improve the team.”
Meanwhile, Vieira is quite pleased with what he's gotten from Iraola, who has been partnered in the defensive midfield with Andrea Pirlo, with Frank Lampard playing in an advanced role. That combination has helped lead NYCFC to consecutive wins over the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders FC.
“I think when you look at the last game that we played, tactically, we were well positioned all over the field,” Vieira said. “That is of course when you have Andoni, Andrea and Frank with their experience, this is what they give you.”