Stats Zone: NYCFC controls play in W-M formation before Giovinco takes charge

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Vieira went back to the future tactically, and it worked - until Sebastian Giovinco did MVP-like things again, Christian Araos writes.

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NEW YORK — Sebastian Giovinco’s brilliant individual goal helped Toronto FC steal a point from New York City FC with a 2–2 draw Sunday afternoon, leaving each team with 4 points through two games.

NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira fielded a 3-4-3 formation - a W-M - that kept Giovinco at bay for most of the match. A late tactical switch from Toronto boss Greg Vanney gave Giovinco all the support he needed to work wonders.

Vieira finds a way to contain Giovinco…

It was not a secret that Vieira was considering fielding a 3-4-3 for NYCFC. New York City experimented with it in preseason and implemented it Sunday in an effort to control the play through the midfield.

They were successful to an extent during the first half. While they managed to complete 214 passes in the first half and have just under 59 percent of the possession, they struggled to create chances in the Toronto penalty area. Michael Bradley and Will Johnson dropped deep and clogged up the passing lanes available. Although they kept New York City at bay, their efforts would be wasted when Marky Delgado gave away a penalty that David Villa converted.

Defensively, NYCFC’s double-six of Andrea Pirlo and Federico Bravo denied Giovinco space to operate and he was largely harmless for the first half.

“Our objective was to control the game which is why Federico played next to Andrea,” Vieira said. “That made us more solid and I think Federico was fantastic tonight.”

…Until Vanney responds

Damien Perquis’ goal in first-half stoppage time gave Toronto FC a lifeline after they found themselves 2–0 down somewhat unfortunately. Vanney said the goal allowed Toronto to play the second half less aggressively. With Toronto thin at forward, Vanney had to look into the midfield for a tactical adjustment and found it at the hour mark when he substituted Tsubasa Endoh for Benoit Cheyrou.

The substitution switched Toronto into a Christmas Tree-like 4-3-2-1 that gave the Reds a 5-v-4 advantage in the midfield. Vanney said he also wanted Toronto to raise its tempo and switch the play quicker than it had in the first half.

“When we were able to do that, their back three got stretched out a little bit and there became some gaps,” Vanney said. “That allowed Giovinco to be able to go at defenders 1-v-1.”

For his equalizer, Giovinco found space in between the midfield and defensive lines due to Bravo closing down on the ball. Under Vanney’s suggestion, Giovinco dropped slightly deeper to allow himself to run at the NYCFC defense. He was able to do so after a caressed first touch and finished with a well-placed, left-footed shot.

But the W-M works for NYCFC

The W-M might be one of the first formations devised in football but it has a use for NYCFC in 2016. It is a balanced formation that allows New York City to compact the space between its forward line and its defensive line. At Yankee Stadium, where the ball can quickly switch from one end to the other, that protects New York City from being exposed on the counter.

In this formation, NYCFC’s four-man midfield is divided into holders and attackers. Thomas McNamara and Mix Diskerud are able to focus on supporting the front three while Bravo and Pirlo support the back three. All four midfielders were in their natural roles this afternoon and it showed. Diskerud said he is most comfortable playing in this role in central midfield because he is able to work passing combinations.

Matarrita effective in central role

Ronald Matarrita moved to the left center back role in the defensive line and was NYCFC’s most effective defender.

“It’s a new position for me but I felt I played a good, clean game,” Matarrita said. “I didn’t put much thought into the new position, that’s up to the coach to determine where I play.”

Through two games, the Costa Rican defender has been impressive in his ability to roam the left wing and now be sound 1-v-1 defender as well.

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