There was plenty for Patrick Vieira to be pleased with in his debut as New York City FC boss. There was also plenty to be unhappy with, but on the balance, the coach is likely more smiles than frowns after a 4-3 road victory over the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon.
Things started off well enough for NYCFC, as Thomas McNamara opened the scoring just 10 minutes in, with a great shot from distance. But NYCFC’s back line, which struggled mightily in 2015, did not hold for long, as Razvan Cocis equalized nine minutes later.
However, Vieira’s side struck for the next two, as Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton seemed to lift NYCFC clear of last year’s Eastern Conference bottom feeders.
But the Fire weren’t done. Kennedy Igboananike cut it back to one goal and after a Mix Diskerud volley cut the lead back to two, David Accam buried a penalty to make it 4-3, ensuring a nervy finish.
NYCFC did not break though, allowing Vieira to do in one game what his predecessor Jason Kreis took until June to do last season - win an away game.
It was an excellent offensive performance - four goals, 20 shots, 10 on target while controlling 62 percent of the possession. That aspect of the game Vieira was quite happy about.
"We stuck to our philosophy, the way we want to play football," Vieira said in quotes published by MLSsoccer.com. "At times we played some really good football, our build-up from the back was really good, we created a lot of chances and this is the way that we want to play this year."
However, there will be questions raised over the quality of the opposition and how much Chicago contributed to New York City’s offensive success. After all, the Fire are in a major rebuild themselves after their poor finish last year with former Serbian Under-20 head coach Veljko Paunović making his own MLS coaching debut for Chicago.
That the Fire also managed three goals will not ease concerns over NYCFC’s overhauled back line, which debuted three new players, Ethan White, Frédéric Brillant and Ronald Matarrita. Despite that possession dominance, the Fire mustered 17 shots, nine on target, themselves. They were credited with nine chances, to New York City FC’s one.
But in a season that features plenty of pressure on Vieira to perform after replacing Kreis, who was fired after failing to guide the team to the playoffs in its first season in MLS, the NYCFC coach will take the three points.
"It was a really good team performance," Vieira said. "I strongly believe we are not at our best at the moment because it was our first game of the league. We will get better and stronger but I was very proud of the team because when we went through a difficult period, especially the last 15 or 20 minutes, we stuck together and we worked well."