On Saturday August 1st, the Montreal Impact played visitors to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Canadian side rose to the occasion in front of another capacity crowd, winning 3-2 in what was Andrea Pirlo’s second match. The 36-year old played the match in its entirety. From the press box, Italian Football Daily correspondents analyze the performance of the former Juventus star.
Last Sunday, Andrea Pirlo graced the baseball field turned football pitch as a substitute in a thrilling 5-3 win over Orlando City. This time, New York’s number 21 started from the first whistle and from there, dozens observed him closely in the Yankee Stadium press box looking to see how he performed in his first start with the club. Italian Football Daily reporters Matt Santangelo, Dan Gutman and Mara Gerety honed in on the 36-year old Italian international to see how he set himself up to be the key man for his new club.
MS: Manager Jason Kreis fielded a 4-5-1 formation with Andrew Jacobson being the vice-Pirlo in the midfield. Through the first 10 minutes, Pirlo actively tried to get involved in the pace of the game, retrieving the ball deep in his traditional regista role. At times, he tended to drift back further to get into his rhythm with his defensive unit which included Andoni Iraola, Jefferson Mena, Jason Hernandez and Angelino. Nearly twenty minutes into the first half and Pirlo remained neutralized by the well-organized Montreal Impact led by manager Frank Klopas. He looked to be wandering the field, lurking about in hopes of finding himself involved in any buildup play NYCFC tried to orchestrate. As halftime loomed, neither Andrea nor his supporting cast were able to make the most of the possession they had. Shockingly, halftime stats indicated that NYCFC had 52.7% posession in favor of Montreal’s 47.3% according to Opta. As for Pirlo, his stats at the break were as follows:
Touches-48, Total Passes-42, Passing Accuracy- 78.6%, Fouls Won-2
MG: Montreal’s approach in this game was one of ruthless high pressing and fast transition from back to front, taking full advantage of NYCFC’s disorganized defense to launch wave after wave of attacks. Former Serie A star Marco Donadel was pulling all the strings in the Canadian midfield while his teammates occupied themselves with making sure Pirlo couldn’t do the same for New York. What was inexcusable, though, was NYCFC’s defensive positioning. Time after time again they were caught flat-footed, scrambling to catch up as Montreal players broke away and attacked the goal nearly unimpeded. For a brief time in the middle of the first half it looked like Pirlo was, sensing the desperate need, dropping all the way back to an old-fashioned libero position, the roaming sweeper role associated with players of the 1970s like Gaetano Scirea and Giacinto Facchetti, but he soon wandered back into his usual deep-lying midfield zone.
MS: The second half whistle blew with New York City trailing 2-0. Once again, Kreis’ squad found it difficult to break down the Impact’s cohesive side with few glimpses of daylight quickly closed down. At the 47th minute mark, a rejuvenated crowd tried to inject some energy into their hometown club as Andrea Pirlo jogged to the corner flag to send one into the box. Credit to Montreal’s tactics for the duration of this match as they froze out the band, the supporters and their opposition. Up until the 62nd minute, Pirlo was practically a non-factor which is usually not the case as he’s generally the engine and choreographer of all. Andrea fired one from deep outside the box that forced the New York faithful out of their seats but it came to nothing as it flew wide past Impact keeper Evan Bush.
MG: The paradox of a player like Pirlo, a classic regista unique in the modern era, is that for as much as he’s known as “the Architect” and famous for directing and structuring the tactical motions of the team, his effectiveness depends on the tactical awareness of the other ten men on the field. His artistry demands freedom, and freedom demands a security in the knowledge that everyone will be where they need to be. That didn’t happen today. NYCFC looked tactically incoherent and technically clumsy, frequently turning possession over to Montreal through misplaced passes or poor control. Montreal’s midfielders marked Pirlo ferociously, shutting him down quickly and forcing him into errors – and then when he did break free of his tormentors and send a pinpoint pass upfield to try and jump-start an attack, the ball’s intended recipient appeared to have not gotten the memo and was in the wrong position to receive the pass.
MS: Despite David Villa grabbing his 13th goal of the season from the penalty spot in the 67th minute and Tommy McNamara bringing the game back to within one goal, New York City FC came up just short as the Montreal Impact secured the 3-2 victory on the road. Andrea Pirlo, the man of the hour, had one of his rare below-average performances as he looked lost in the flow of the match. In his defense, there were few positives to take from this match as the defense once again let down the team: they now have conceded 10 goals in their last three matches. As for Pirlo, here are the final stats for the ex-Milan man after the final whistle according to MLS MatchCenter and WhoScored:
Shots On Target-0, Shots Off Target-1, Key Passes-2, Fouls Won-2, Touches-94, Total Passes- 80, Passing Accuracy- 81.3%
From the Yankee Stadium press box, some exclusive media from the match:
Andrea Pirlo Player Introduction: