Jason Kreis had a priority when making his debut lineup prior to New York City FC’s first-ever match on March 8 at Orlando City SC – get as many MLS veterans as possible on the field.
“I wanted to try to get as many experienced MLS players on the field – especially on the back four – for the first match knowing there would be 60,000-plus people there in Orlando and knowing emotionally what that is like for guys,” Kreis said.
That thought process spurred defender Chris Wingert’s move from his traditional position of outside back to center back. With that switch came confirmation that Wingert was named to the Club’s first-ever Starting XI on the back line along with Jason Hernandez, Jeb Brovsky and Josh Williams.
The move paid off as New York City FC didn’t allow a goal for 90 minutes of regulation. Not even Kaka’s free kick in the 91st minute that ended up in the back of the net off a deflection could dampen head coach Kreis’ outlook on the defense.
“Obviously to not give away a goal until the very last minute on a dead ball that was a little bit fluky meant we wanted to continue with that against the Revolution.” Kreis said.
The Club’s players, particularly the defense, have continued to develop a relationship with one another and gain more confidence. It’s evident by the past two score lines – a 2-0 victory over defending Eastern Conference Champion New England on March 15 and a scoreless draw at Colorado on Sunday.
In the first three matches of club history, New York City FC has allowed just one goal.
The defense has seen just one change through three games. Shay Facey stepped in for Williams, who was unavailable due to precautionary reasons, at right back.
Wingert, who also played for Columbus (2004-05), Colorado (2006-07) and Real Salt Lake (2007-14), has predominately been utilized as an outside defender, especially at RSL under Kreis. Despite his years of experience at that position, he has made the switch in stride.
“The move has been good,” the 32-year-old said. “I’m comfortable there. The more time I get there the more comfortable I will be moving forward. I’ve always been at ease there, but I’ve played more outside back than center back over the past seven or eight years.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment – the spacing is different, the timing is different, your focus is going to be on different things, but I think I can do well there with a little bit of time.”
Wingert said as long as he’s on the field he’s happy, whether he’s at right back, center back or at forward maybe even looking to add to his career goal tally of one.
“I would like to play wherever they want me to play,” he said. “As long as I can be on the field helping the team, I’m happy with that.”