Pirlo: A Force of Footballing Nature in New York City

The Italian legend made an immediate, world-class impact on his New York City FC teammates in his MLS debut
by Nick Chavez   |   Monday, July 27, 2015

Cool as the other side of the pillow, the 007 of New York City's eleven finally stepped on to the Yankee Stadium pitch in the 57th minute. By the time the final whistle blew, Orlando City had to live with the reality that they've been hit by a most “smooth criminal.”

Suave. Elegant. Playing on his own planet with his own laws of physics, “Il Maestro”, who has only trained for 3 days since his return from vacation, immediately showed why he is one of the most universally-admired midfielders of all time.

He played at his own pace, with supreme confidence and comfort. There was no time necessary to adapt. There were no growing pains to be had, nor gelling necessary.

"The Architect" came on the pitch at Yankee Stadium to rapturous applause and quickly demonstrated why he merited them. How different of a team indeed did New York City FC look with the 2006 World Cup winning legend and 2015 UEFA Champion's League finalist wearing the sky blue colors that represent the only football club to truly embody the 5 boroughs.

He launched balls upfield with pinpoint accuracy, never appearing to exert himself, nor being at all anxious about the occasion. His technique is of the highest order, such is the way he floats balls effortlessly that land as if upon a Tempur-Pedic mattress before his teammates’ feet.

The New York City crowd of over 32,000 lapped it up with “oohs and ahhs”, watching the subtle poise and mastery of Andrea Pirlo leaving the Orlando City defense suddenly stymied. On a number of occasions, he would execute 360 spin moves in almost slow motion that still shook the visitors’ defense, and find himself with all the time and space in the world seemingly without breaking a sweat.

Meanwhile, Pirlo’s unflappable sway over proceedings had the opposite effect on his New York City FC teammates, giving them a potent dose of confidence and midfield tranquility that has often been missing this season for the expansion side.

Twice Pirlo fed a bruising and visionary Kwadwo Poku, who would power his way up field, finding his Captain David Villa first and then minutes later the excellent Thomas McNamara, both of whom registered goals on these plays that started from the feet of the Italian wizard.

Pirlo also chipped an exquisite ball into the box that found a rampant Mix Diskerud, who was in an excellent position to score if he had not slipped. Mix would enjoy being freed up from his more deep-lying role now occupied by Pirlo, doing what he has always been more comfortable doing, attacking closer to goal with space. For NYCFC, he looked a new player because of it.

The Yankee Stadium crowd, who during various moments of the match were chanting “WE WANT PIRLO!” until Coach Jason Kreis finally granted their wish, were not the only ones overjoyed with Pirlo’s role in the 5-goal thrashing of their fellow expansion side from Florida.

NYCFC Captain David Villa, scorer of 2 impressive goals on the day, was demonstratively relieved to have the legendary playmaker finally make his debut, saying with a laugh, “New York City fans seemed happier to see Pirlo in an NYCFC uniform than with the win and I think I was, too.”

The prolific “El Guaje” added, “There are very few players in football history with that quality. So we're very happy to have Pirlo with us.”

Mix Diskerud was also gushing about his biggest idol in soccer, and now, teammate, “Pirlo has a really great calmness on the ball and he really sees everything. He doesn’t get stressed. It isn’t normal.”

There’s no doubting why they call Pirlo “The Master.” He’s a player that appears to require no coaching, no adapting, no advice, no encouragement.

Pirlo just is. He controls, he provides and he executes. A force of footballing nature. The calm before the storm.

And some people claimed Jason Kreis preferred a younger forward as his third Designated Player even after learning he could sign Pirlo instead? Yea, I laughed about that too.

With the much-improved play of McNamara, Mix, Poku, Calle and the impending arrival of this guy named Frank Lampard (next Saturday v. Montreal?), NYCFC suddenly find themselves with an embarrassment of attacking midfield depth.

Of course, New York City are less fortunate in the Centerback position, but as this newly-assembled back four of Angelino, Facey, Mena and Iraola start to reach an understanding with each other, and Wingert, Hernandez and eventually George John all become available once again, NYCFC might enjoy some quality depth and stability in the back as well.

In any case, I’m sure everyone can agree that New York City FC just got a hell of a lot more fun to watch. Enjoy it, New York City fans. You’ve earned it.


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This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.