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New York City FC draws Atlanta United in what may be Patrick Vieira’s last match

NEW YORK – New York City FC and Atlanta United played to a 1-1 draw before an announced crowd of 25,628 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

At the full-time whistle, the partisans were uncertain if head coach Patrick Vieira had directed his final match for NYCFC, although there were strong indications that the former French international will move on to OGC Nice as reported in L’Equipe.

For instance, Vieira saluted the supporters following the match. That is not his normal posture.  Vieira also exchanged warm embraces after the game. First, from his opponent in the technical area, Atlanta’s Tata Martino. City captain David Villa then told Vieira during a hug, “thanks for everything.”

The Villa audio was captured from the “Sounds of the Pitch” microphone utilized during the match by the YES Network.

“I am not the right person to talk about the situation now,” Villa told reporters afterward. “If you ask me about the global aspect – I’ve been here from the start, Tommy (McNamara) is here, others are leaving – the most important is the identity of the club. It doesn’t matter the president, the players the coaches – the most important is the identity of the club growing.”

Villa acknowledged that it is Vieira who has furnished the distinction. And fullback Ben Sweat, who was given an MLS lease when Vieira signed him as a trialist last year, agreed that a potential departure would not negatively impact the principles Vieira stressed.

“That’s not going to change, whether he stays or if he goes,” Sweat said. “Its not going to change the culture with this club – what he has implemented. That’s something as players we have to be professionals about and keep that standard as individuals and as a team.”

Maxi Moralez  told WADO’s Roberto Abramowitz:  “We’re very comfortable with the ideas that we have here. As far as I’m concerned those are personal decisions that one has to make. If one aspires to something or not, those are personal decisions, I think that us, we are more than happy with him. I hope he stays because we know what he means. If not, it’s an important step in his career as a professional. I think that everyone will see it that way, because he’s proven to be a great person beyond what he does as a coach.” 

Villa further suggested that the movement of a coach or player is often inevitable.

“One day I am leaving and the people say, ‘Oh sorry, David Villa is leaving,’ he said. “Come in another striker that scores a lot of goals and then they say, ‘Thank you for Villa leaving.’ This is soccer and it’s normal. We need to fight when we are inside of the club and know that we are privileged to be here. Finally we have identity – this is the most important for us.”

Villa and his mates rebounded well from the U.S. Open Cup loss to the Red Bulls on Wednesday, outshooting the Five Stripes 25-6, but Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan put in a man-of-the-match performance with nine saves.

Josef Martinez opened the scoring in the 48th minute on a perfectly placed cross from Julien Gressel. The Venezuelan headed the ball down and past NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson for the 1-0 lead.

It was Martinez’ 13th goal of the season and 32nd tally in 35 career MLS matches.

New York City knotted the game when Villa headed a Moralez corner kick into the path of Alexander Callens who dove at the ball to head in his first of the season and third of his career.

After Callens scored, the bench erupted with chants of “Disney!.”  Frustrated that his team failed to score on a single corner kick all season, Vieira had promised to take every player to Disney World if they managed to finish a corner ball.

What appears to be certain but lacks finality is that Vieira will not have the chance to join his team to see Mickey, Donald and the rest of the Disney characters.

New York City midfielder Alexander Ring (8) looks to pass during the second half against Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. Mandatory Credit: Chris Bergmann-USA TODAY Sports

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