In his first season as New York City FC’s head coach, Patrick Vieira lead his team to its first playoff berth in only its second season.
Now, as NYCFC’s preparations for the 2017 Major League Soccer season comes to a close, Vieira feels this year’s squad may be better than his 2016 team.
“I feel the team is much stronger than last year,” Vieira said. “David (Villa) and Andrea (Pirlo) and the experienced players on this team will help lead the young players and exploit their talents.”
During a press conference with reporters, the second year head coach noted that despite the Villa (35) and Pirlo (37) being older players, both continue to work hard and set an example for the young players during training.
“For me, I think (Villa) is getting younger,” Vieira said through a bit of laughter. “When I see him in training and during games, he continues to have so much passion and love for the game. I’m not worried about his age.”
While Villa would be hard pressed to replicate his 2016 league MVP season when he scored 23 goals, Vieira did acknowledge that he must keep an eye on the fitness of Villa and Pirlo throughout the long season.
“I have a good relationship with them and if one of them get tired or have a physical problem they will talk with me about it,” he said. “Ultimately, I’m the one who makes the decision on when they play.”
In addition to his veteran players, Vieira said the addition of the team’s third Designated Player, Maximiliano Moralez, gives NYCFC a talent that it did not have last season. But the question of positioning for the man known as Maxi remains as of yet unanswered.
“He can play in different positions,” the head coach said. “He gives us different options but I do believe the best position for him is in the central part of the field.”
Viera also sees progress with his defense so far during preseason, but noted that the focus remains on improving as a unit.
“We have had a few players arrive to camp late, so we’re still getting a look,” he said. “But we have different options.”