New York City FC’s Designated Players – David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo – are the ones making headlines, getting much of the credit for the Club’s red-hot run to the top of the Eastern Conference.
But delve slightly below the surface and one tactical change made by coach Patrick Vieira has made as big of a difference.
It was when Vieira moved Andoni Iraola from outside back to defensive midfield.
“Obviously it’s a change of position for me, obviously I want to play as many minutes as possible as everybody wants to do. I think I feel comfortable,” Iraola said. “I think when you win games it’s always easier and it looks better. We hope, and I hope, to continue like this.”
It was a move made out of necessity when Federico Bravo went down with an injury. But since the Spanish veteran slotted next to Pirlo and behind Lampard, NYCFC has four straight wins – and three consecutive clean sheets.
“He brings us a bit of his tactical knowledge, the game understand, but what I really like about Andoni is he’s really calm and tactically he’s really improved the team,” Vieira said.
Iraola was that calming influence again Wednesday night, breaking up New England’s attack and helping create space for Pirlo and Lampard to go forward in a huge 1-0 road win.
“Obviously it’s difficult to say what has changed,” Iraola said. “I think we’ve been pretty solid the last games, even without the ball I think the team is looking pretty comfortable which we knew we had to improve and we are in the right way.”
And while he doesn’t get an assist on the play, Iraola started the sequence that led to Lampard’s winning goal against the Revs. He received a ball from R.J. Allen and poked past a charging Kei Kamara into space for Andrea Pirlo, who lobbed into the box to Tommy McNamara, who crossed to Lampard at the edge of the six-yard box.
“For us, I think this was a huge game, it was a tough match because always here it’s a difficult game,” Iraola said. “I think in the beginning of the game we were not so sharp with the ball, but I think later we were better. … I think we deserved the win.”