Ronald Matarrita made some heady plays for NYC FC Saturday. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

Front Row Soccer Editor

For all of this preseason and the young Major League Soccer season, Patrick Vieira has been preaching to his team about the merits of building up from the back.

On Saturday, the New York City FC head coach and the team’s fans witnessed the good, the bad and ugly of his strategy in the 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

After Tommy McNamara scored the game-winning goal midway through the second half at Yankee Stadium, Vieira was beaming.

“The goal we scored, really reflects the way we want to play the game,” he said. “I think our collective game when we are in the box, our movement because of the technical level of the players allowed us to do that.”

But before we get to that goal, let’s start with the bad and ugly.

That occurred only six minutes after referee Jorge Gonzalez’s opening whistle.

Andrea Pirlo sent Sean Johnson a rather poor back pass in traffic that the goalkeeper had to boot out of harm’s way in a crowded penalty area. Instead of booming the ball toward the midfield, the veteran keeper booted a high ball towards the top of the box on the right side. With Quakes striker standing to his left, center back Alexander Callens tried for the ball. Instead, it went off his leg to Marco Urena, who had an easy time and loads of room to score and give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

“That will happen,” Vieira said. “I don’t think it will be the last one. That is the way we want to play the game. When you want to play the game that way, there is a risk to take and I’m prepared to take that because I strongly believe that we are going to create more than we are going to concede.”

And Vieira was correct as it took only four minutes to discover the good.

City finished off some nifty passing that included a feed from Costa Rican international left back Ronald Matarrita to David Villa. The 2010 World Cup winner then flicked a quick pass to an onrushing Jack Harrison, who fired a shot that goalkeeper David Bingham blocked with both hands. That. however, didn’t do the trick as the momentum of the shot carried the ball off the right post and into the net for a 1-1 deadlock.

Then came the very good in the 67th minute. Tommy McNamara, who came on as a sub only four minutes prior, turned out to be the recipient of some really good build-up. Callens, on his way for atoning for his earlier miscue, send Villa a pass from the left flank. Villa the goal-scorer turned goal-creator again with a simple flick of his foot to Matarrita on the left side of the penalty area.

“It was a great build up down the left side,” McNamara said. “I just remember thinking to myself just get into the box, get myself free and into a good area. When the ball broke through with Mattarita and he got in behind I was just hoping he would cut it back to me and he did and played a perfect ball to me. I just made sure to keep it on frame because the goalie was a little bit out of the equation at that point.”

McNamara could not have put it any better, with his mouth or with his left foot.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at