Three Good Things:
- The Pirlo Effect: There was something that changed in the team when Pirlo came in. Passes flowed freely to players in space, allowing them to be creative and find attacking players in spaces where they’d have a chance to make something happen. Kreis’ system came to beautiful, perfect life, and the Maestro was at the center of it all. What a legend.
- Poku Power: This was the first time he’s gone a full 90 minutes and played effectively throughout. His three assists put him at six in three starts and he was rewarded for his breakout performance with a team of the week selection. With the incoming Frank Lampard, the midfield could soon look like the best in MLS.
- The Defense’s Final Form: This is where we all knew it’d end up eventually. Iraola, Facey, Mena, and Angelino are the current and future back four. While they surrendered three goals to potential rookie of the year Cyle Larin, overall I found myself much more hopeful of their future, as they made some solid plays to counter further opportunities. Get used to this group.
Three Bad Things:
- Chris Wingert’s Leg: Once again, Chris started the match in center back, and before 20 minutes had been played, he required a substitution as he injured himself. As frequently as he’s been injured, you might have to start overlooking his depth value and consider him for the chopping block. It’s been a highly unlucky season so far.
- Ball Watching: I’m almost inclined to find a new name for this, it’s so egregious. Maybe ball fixation? Our center backs, both Facey and Mena, we’re abused by Cyle Larin and his well-times runs. The center has been the problem all year, and they’ll have to figure out how to stop that eventually.
- My Attempt at Writing This Third Thing: Honestly, though the defense was bad, this was by far the best game of the year that I’ve seen. It was fun, it was filled with legitimate goals, and Pirlo was as good as promised. Take a week off, bad thing #3, you’ve earned it.
Man of the Match:
Three assists means Kwadwo Poku has earned his first MotM honors! Special mention to Andrea Pirlo, you look so good in sky blue.
Josh Saunders: 6
Not the best match Saunders has played. I thought he could’ve done better on a few of Larin’s shots. Some he had no chance at, and some were difficult, but you don’t get paid to only stop the easy shots. I won’t blame the goals on him, but he could’ve helped a bit more.
Iraola: 6 Facey: 5 Mena: 5 Angelino: 7
Wings stronger than the middle. Facey and Mena struggled to contain Larin pretty badly. They were caught ball watching early and often, and Facey struggled with his size as well. Normally Facey performs better, and Mena looked so incredibly promising with his combination of size and smarts, I’ll give this full group another week before I start holding people more accountable, I think they’ll improve with Mena starting rather than as a brevet substitution. Angelino looked the best, again flourishing on the attack, as evidenced by his insane (Pirlo-like?) long ball to Villa for the first goal of the match.
Ballouchy: 5 Calle: 7 Jacobson: 6 Poku: 9 McNamara: 7
It was phenomenal to see Calle back in the midfield. He looked fresh and healthy and made a big impact with his goal and overall play. McNamara was phenomenal as well, adding a goal of his own to go along with some, as usual, solid time on the field. Jacobson was about average, and livened up greatly with Pirlo on the field, as did everyone. Ballouchy was the weak link, but I wouldn’t expect to see him as a consistent starter here on out, more of a top sub. Poku was a revelation to everyone in MLS who didn’t know him yet. Three assists, played like a bulldozer, and had an immediate, innate chemistry with Pirlo from moment one. What a game for the young man, truly deserving team of the week selection.
Oh how the captain came back strong! Two more goals to add to his season tally, one off a deflection and one that was so vintage Villa I was blown away. The touch on Angelino’s pass was inch-perfect and then the finish was in the only spot he could’ve put it to score, also inch-perfect. That’s world class, and that’s what you can expect a lot more of when he’s getting the ball from Pirlo.
Wingert (Started, early Injury sub): 4 Pirlo: 8 Diskerud: 7
Wingert barely played, and ordinarily I wouldn’t give him a grade, but at some point your inability to stay on the field hurts your team. Luckily Kreis did just fine with only two second half substitutions, but had we needed that third sub late, Wingert would’ve cost us dearly. Diskerud, first day back with the team, came on and looked like a man possessed. He didn’t play much for the men’s team and looked fresh and ready to be back on the field. His goal with Poku and Villa was a perfectly executed 3-on-1. Pirlo was an absolute all-time best. He made people look silly, found passes that didn’t exist up until the moment he made them, and made everyone around him better in the most dramatic improvement I’ve ever seen. We are a lucky, lucky team to have him.
Be sure to follow Andres at @TheAndresSoto and myself @Coltons13 on twitter for everything NYCFC Fan Podcast related and NYCFC related! If you enjoyed this, please check out my own blog, Great Balls of Fire! Let’s go, NYCFC!
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Colton Coreschi