NYCFC praise Pirlo's performance in loss, but questions of his role persist

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Is Andrea Pirlo becoming something of a luxury player for New York City FC?

The veteran Italian has been used sparingly by Patrick Vieira in recent weeks, which has coincided with New York City's best form of the season so far. Heading into Wednesday night's clash at the Vancouver Whitecaps, Pirlo had played just 12 minutes in New York City's last seven matches, with the club registering five wins and a draw in those games.

Pirlo started his first match since May 17 in Vancouver's 3-2 victory, but had a mixed outing, earning an assist on Maxime Chanot's opener for New York, but tiring as the second half wore on, before being substituted in the 75th minute.

But Vieira was pleased with what he saw from the World Cup winner in his team's loss to the Whitecaps.

"I think Andrea had a really good game today," Vieira told reporters after the match. "When you look at the first half, the way he worked with Alex [Ring] and Yangel [Herrera], the way we build up, the vision that he had in the game, he opened up our game. Switching the game from one side to the other side, it was a really good performance from Andrea."

In spite of his head coach's praise, New York City have won just three and lost five of the nine matches Pirlo has started this season. 

He brings with him a mystique and experience that forces opponents to take notice. Vieira sidestepped the question on what the veteran needs to do to regain a regular starting spot, but Chanot would rather have a player like Pirlo on his team than not.

"Andrea was one of the best players in the world," Chanot told reporters after the match. "With all his experience, every time he is on the pitch he gives us a very good ball. He gives us confidence when we need it and that’s what he did tonight. Despite the result, he played a good game."

One of New York City's strengths this year has been their ability to spread the workload around the team to get results. David Villa may be leading the way after getting his 12th goal of the season against Vancouver, but Jack Harrison has eight, and five players have contributed four assists of more.

Whether or not Pirlo continues to be a starter moving forward, Harrison is confident that New York City will continue to get the job done in the second half of the season, and having some Italian flair and experience would be useful.

"Obviously Andrea's a great player," Harrison said. "With his career and everything he brings a lot to the team. I don't know, it's tough to say really. We didn't really put that into our game today.

"With or without him, I think the team does great. We have a very tough midfield, so it's been tough, but it's always great having him in there. With his passing it's incredible."