New York City FC boss Patrick Vieira’s shock decision to omit Italian star Andrea Pirlo from his squad failed to pay off in a 2-0 Major League Soccer defeat to the Union in Philadelphia.
Vieira on Saturday stressed that Pirlo wasn’t injured, and his absence was strictly a coach’s decision.
“I’m just trying to choose the best team to win football matches, regarding the team we’re going to play against -– on how we can hurt them and how we can defend their strengths,” the former France star said.
Vieira shook up his midfield, dropping Mix Diskerud, Thomas McNamara and Pirlo in favor of Federico Bravo, Kwadwo Poku and Mikey Lopez.
Diskerud and McNamara were on the bench and came on as substitutes, and, overall, Vieira said he was happy with how his players performed.
“Andrea wasn’t here today. He may be involved in the game on Wednesday (against Montreal),” Vieira said. “But to be honest, I was really pleased and happy with the way Mikey, Bravo and Poku played. I was really pleased with the midfield.”
City dominated possession, but of 13 shots only one really threatened.
Pirlo had started the club’s first six matches this season.
He joined City last season on a free transfer from Juventus after another Serie A crown and a run to the UEFA Champions League final.
Since an opening-day win over Chicago, City have drawn three and lost three.
“I personally believe we dominated the game,” Vieira said. “I personally believe we created enough chances to score goals. But we weren’t ruthless enough in front of the goal to put the ball in the back of the net.
“And we gave two goals away,” he added of the first-half strikes by the Union’s Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong. “Philly didn’t really create them. We gave it to them.”
In Montreal, the Impact welcomed Didier Drogba back to the starting lineup for the first time this season — but he was effectively checked by Toronto in a 2-0 Toronto FC victory.
Sebastian Giovinco scored twice — including a penalty in the 40th minute after Jozy Altidore was taken down in the box by Montreal defender Victor Cabrera.
It marked the first time in their last 10 home games that the Impact failed to score.