No Player Is 'Unbenchable,' Nor Should They Be

Vieira has shown that if Pirlo can be benched, anyone can, and that’s good for New York City FC
by Nick Chavez   |   Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Through this miserable, all-too-familiar run of failure New York City’s Celestes are currently enduring, there is at least one silver-lining to celebrate: Coach Patrick Vieira seems to call the shots and is beholden to no star player.


When Vieira was asked by the press why Pirlo wasn’t on the team sheet after Saturday’s loss to the Philadelphia Union, Vieira did not try to be diplomatic with an uncontroversial, canned answer. Instead he said it was his choice, and one that he thought would give his side the best chance to break the ever-extending winless streak.


“I was really just choosing the best team to try to win football matches,” Vieira explained. “[With regards to] the team we are going to play against, and how we can hurt them, and how we can defend regarding their strength.”

“It’s my decision.”


“Andrea… I would be really quite pleased if you stayed home this Saturday.”

Whether Vieira’s decision was correct or not is debatable, but this sends the clear message to New York City FC players that if Pirlo can be taken off the team sheet, anyone can. And it’s an extremely important message to the players and the fans, especially with Lampard’s return rumored to be looming in the horizon as well.


Upon his return, NYCFC fans may quickly find that a midfield with both Lampard and Pirlo participating may not earn a lot of wins, as was the case at the tail end of last season.


There were, of course, valid excuses for underperformance last season, such as both stars just coming off of full European campaigns and not having a preseason, but there is a strong possibility that this aging duo will continue to see their influence wane competing in MLS’s fast, physical environment and may continue to look more like a liability than an asset when sharing the pitch.


With this in mind, it is comforting to see evidence that Vieira won’t feel pressured by outside forces to start these players together if it isn’t working, as his predecessor Jason Kreis was suspected to be. The Frenchman seems to be more in control of his players, and having the final say on the team he wants to field, regardless of their famous names and legendary status.


“Andrea was not here today, he may get in on Wednesday,” Vieira commented, “but to be honest I was really pleased and happy with the way that Tommy [McNamara], Mikey [Lopez], [Federico] Bravo, and [Kwadwo] Poku played. I was really pleased with my midfield.”


Pirlo. Andrea Pirlo may get in. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sort of rhetoric should be music to the ears of the NYCFC faithful. This shows that Vieira is more concerned about winning than including players based on their name, and isn’t afraid to treat these stars like any other player. As they should always be treated when competing for a spot. Remember, sports fans, no player is bigger than the club. None.


For the last year or so, I’d frequently hear pundits saying, “You can’t bench a 6 million dollar player!”. I have always wholly rejected this belief.  


New York City FC is running a football club. New York City’s football club, not a wax museum. And their job at this point is to figure out how to win. And if doing that means Vieira has to bench Lampard, Pirlo or whoever else, then that’s what Vieira should do. No questions asked.


There is no value in losing more matches and being the punching bag of Major League Soccer clubs. I’m sure New York City fans hope Vieira stays true to this conviction of only including the players who will most help the team compete, regardless of their salary, superstar status, or marketability.


And, to that end, one must also hope that New York City is ever-more judicious in selecting future designated players to replace the current trio when the time comes.

Oh, and if you get the chance NYCFC, by all means, please replace Frank Lampard. The sooner the better. He was a great player, and seems like a nice guy, but this isn’t a charity. No player should be allowed to stand in the way of New York City FC’s progress. Cut your losses, and replace him with a quality player in an actual area of need as soon as possible. Oh, we can dream, can’t we?


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