Davies: NYCFC's draw in Atlanta was a statement game for Patrick Vieira

After their 2-2 draw in Atlanta on Sunday, New York City FC remain unbeaten in seven matches. What we’ve seen from them thus far has been an attack-minded, free-flowing team who are enjoying playing with each other and for their coach.

In Patrick Vieira’s third season, we're seeing the results of establishing a culture within his team, one that has blossomed to league-leading form. In Sunday’s matchup, they found themselves down twice and were able to fight their way back to sustain a tie in a tough and intimidating place to play.

Atlanta United’s home turf, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is an overwhelming venue where a lot of visiting teams can lose their way. NYCFC never wavered from their game plan and were still able to execute their style of play under heavy pressure.

Using a high-press approach while also building out of the back, NYC look to play a ball that breaks the lines, where they can exploit an attacking advantage. In the final third, they play freely, often interchanging and combining.

David Villa, for example, can find himself out wide by the touchline or in the opposition’s penalty box; Maxi Moralez can start plays as well as finish them. There are a lot of moving parts, but it all seems to fit together seamlessly. Vieira’s philosophy has remained the same since his first season in charge (2016), but it’s been fine-tuned over the last two-plus years.

The execution is what is making all the difference. He’s assembled the right group of players to deliver.

Vieira has had the time to learn the ins and outs of MLS. Upon his arrival, he stressed the fact that he would undergo a learning process, with new rules, new personnel and a new league.

But this is Patrick Vieira, a decorated defensive midfielder in his own playing days who brings years of experience. He’s won a World Cup, a European Championship and league titles in Premiership and Serie A, starring alongside some of the best to have ever played.

He’s also been taught by some of the best coaches in the history of football. Bottom line: He knows what it takes to win. This is a coach that every player dreams of playing for. His desire to win spreads to his players and the rest of the staff. Believing in your coach, and wanting to play for your coach, can make all the difference.

NYCFC’s spirits are high, but what’s even higher is the standard to which the players hold each other. There’s healthy competition within the squad, which demands high levels of performance. When Villa was absent with a calf injury, numerous attacking players stepped up when called upon to show that even without their star player, they could still get the job done.

Everyone is putting in the work, and when they see the results, the message is clear. Put the team first, play as one and believe in the system. When the final whistle blew Sunday night, Villa’s fist pump signaled a job well done.

They implemented their strategy, while holding off Atlanta United’s vaunted attack, to bag a hard-earned point on the road. They remain unbeaten atop the league standings. It’s evident that they’re having fun playing, and we’re having fun watching.

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