"We Want Pirlo!" "We Want Pirlo!"
The cries for the New York City FC midfielder rang out throughout Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It would come from the supporters' section. Then behind home plate. Then down the third-base line. The fans demanded the Italian maestro and with 56:01 on the clock, they got Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo replaced Mehdi Ballouchy to a raucous ovation from 32,041 in New York City FC's 5-3 victory over Orlando City SC. His first touch on the ball was also welcomed with a cheer and his next two vintage Pirlo diagonal long balls were greeted with "ooohs" and "ahhhs" as if the fans were watching a magic show.
"It was great because I could tell that they wanted me to play," Pirlo said. "When I got on the pitch, it was absolutely amazing to hear all of the applause. It was very emotional to hear and I really did appreciate it."
Pirlo was instrumental in the build up to a pair of New York City FC goals. Twice he was on the ball in the middle of the field, created space from a defender and found Kwadwo Poku. Poku, who had three assists to double his team-leading tally to six, found David Villa and Tommy McNamara for goals in the 67th and 71st minutes, respectively.
"He’s a special, special player," head coach Jason Kreis said. "The guy sees passes that most of us don’t. He can really open up the game. What I really saw was a team opening up because they believed he could find them. He made a big difference. It was his first game after training with the team for four days so we can hope for even better going forward.”
Added McNamara: "You could really see his range of passing and it opens up the field. When he gets on the ball you just know that he’s going to keep it. He’s always going to be able to make the forward pass so it allows our team to get into different spaces and still expect to receive the ball. It really opens it all up for us.”
Mix Diskerud, who scored in stoppage time in his first match back after playing for the United States in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, was equally as impressed with his fellow midfielder.
“He has a really great calmness around him and you see it when he’s on the ball, as well. He really knows how to move the ball and he really sees everything."