tommy colorado

Vieira: McNamara Was Fantastic

It was a big night for NYCFC, who managed to earn a point on the road in Colorado despite a continuing battle with injuries that have depleted Patrick Vieira's squad.

First-ever Homegrown player James Sands earned his MLS debut, as did new signing Andraz Struna.

READ: Match Recap: NYCFC 1-1 Colorado Rapids

Sands had the honor—and the pressure—of coming on to replace none other than Andrea Pirlo, and the youngster acquitted himself well in the defensive midfield role. 

"I think he's just learning," said Vieira in analyzing the 17 year-old's performance. "He's really young, and he came into a game where we were under pressure, where he needed to be really smart. 

"I think it was a good first game for him to get involved. It will make him better, and I think it was a good experience for him. He's an important player for our football club and we want to develop him in the right way."

Patrolling the midfield alongside Sands was Tommy McNamara, who in his third game in a row wearing the Captain's armband, contributed one of his trademark long-range strikes to earn NYCFC a point.

READ: Sands, Shaver Named to USA U-17 Roster

His performance was a good one, and Vieira says it's a product of his leadership qualities and his progression throughout the season. 

"When you look at the beginning of the season, it was really tough and difficult for him, because he didn't play a lot," reflected the gaffer. 

"But he keeps his head happy and he's been working really hard in training. Any time that he has a possibility to play, he always gives it all for the team, and today he scored a fantastic goal.

"We start to get used to that kind of goal from Tommy, but it's just his performance overall, the way he works for the team, how smart he is on the field. He was fantastic again today."

With David Villa back in the team but not available to start, Jack Harrison was once again tasked with leading the line for the boys in Blue. He didn't get on the scoresheet, but he contributed another lively performance and showed a willingness to be in the center of the action. 

"It's something I wanted to try a long time ago," said Vieira about a more central role for Jack Harrison.

"With David's injury, I tried to give him more of this fake No. 9 role with Maxi, and he did really well. He likes to get involved in the game, touching the ball, moving around the field.

"That's good, because this is something we will do more often."

If it's something we'll see from Vieira more often, it will be because of the scoring opportunities Jack's presence helps create. After the match, Patrick recognized that while creating those opportunities is important, finishing them is what counts. 

He put it simply: "We need to be more ruthless."