For someone with Patrick Vieira’s pedigree, there aren’t too many new experiences left in the beautiful game.
Perhaps that’s why New York City FC’s Head Coach is so excited for the upcoming weekend when he leads his team into an MLS postseason game for the very first time.
Toronto FC are the opposition following their 3-1 win over Philadelphia Union in Wednesday night’s Knockout Round setting up a semifinal tie which promises to be gripping for fans and neutrals alike.
Vieira has never experienced Playoffs before but he compares the format to the UEFA Champions League which he featured extensively throughout his storied playing career.
The 40-year old is relishing the pressurized environment and the “kill or be killed” nature of this showdown with Toronto.
“I believe that when you play the European Cup and going into the latter stages it’s a different kind of pressure because you know if you lose you’re out so you have to manage the pressure,” Vieira considered.
“We’ll take the same approach and put out a team to try and control the game. We have to take their strengths into considerations too but that’s what we’ll look at on Thursday or Friday.
“We have to enjoy it – as a football club, it’s the first time we’ve played in the Playoffs and we’re in a really good period so we just have to continue what we’ve been doing in the last few months.
“It’s exciting for us at the football club because it’s something we’ve never done before – for all the people working in the office, the players – we have to enjoy this moment.
“Toronto have Giovinco who is one of the best players in the league – they have individual talents who are dangerous.”
The Last Time: Toronto v NYCFC
Vieira’s starting XI will make for fascinating reading on Sunday afternoon when the first leg takes place at BMO Field.
There are talking points in all positions across the field and that means difficult decisions for the Head Coach and his team to make, chief among them is the call on whether Frank Lampard can start following his muscle injury.
Vieira said: “He [Frank] hasn’t played so much but he’s in double figures for goals – Frank is important for us because when we start pushing for this playoff spot, he came back into the team and that’s when we started playing well.
“It’s always good to have him back in the team. At the same time, I have to look at how he trains this week – how physically he can cope and whether he can start the game or come from the bench. That’s a decision we have to take.
“We have to see how he’ll react with the workload but this morning he did a full session with no problem at all – when everyone was off earlier in the week he came in to do some extra work, so we’re going to see.”
Another tough choice when it comes to team selection will be in the goalkeeper position.
Following Eirik Johansen’s impressive MLS debut on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether it will be the Norwegian or Josh Saunders between the posts in Canada on Sunday.
Patrick confirmed that he was happy with Eirik’s first league showing but has not taken a decision on who will play.
He added: “I still have a few days to make this important decision – I’m really happy with Eirik’s performance against Columbus and I was really happy with Josh and the way he played the season so far. We’re going into a critical period of the season and we’ll have to make a lot of difficult decisions – this is one of them.
“In the last three months we’ve played some really good football and that makes it difficult to leave guys out but this is my job.”