Andrea Pirlo and David Villa were not in the Starting XI for NYCFC. ( Photo)

New York City FC had a slightly different look for its road game at the Columbus Crew Saturday night.

Captain David Villa did not dress for the Major League Soccer match and midfielder Andrea Pirlo began the game on the bench.

Rookie Sean Okoli, last year’s United Soccer League MVP, will started in Villa’s place, while Yangel Herrera took over for Pirlo in his first MLS start.

Villa was scratched from the team’s 18 players due to an illness, the club said. Still, the Spanish international traveled with the team to Columbus, but stayed at the team hotel instead of attending the game at MAPFRE Stadium.

“He didn’t train at all, all week. He had a small session yesterday by himself with one of the coaches and he was feeling good,” head coach Patrick Vieira said in a statement at “We brought him with us to see how he’s going to get but this morning he wasn’t feeling well enough to depart for the game.”

Ben Sweat was listed as a starter on defense as forward Rodney Wallace, who was moved to left back last week to replace the injured Ronald Matarrita, started the match at striker.

“Rodney is very important for us up front and Ben has been doing very well in training lately,” Vieira said. “There’s no reason why I wouldn’t start him today – he’s ready to play and I think that will give me good information about him. On preseason, he played some games where he played well, so to see him in a competitive game is going to be good.”

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