The great Andrea Pirlo has enjoyed many memorable moments in a fabulous 22-year professional career.
He has won a World Cup (2016), has played on two UEFA Champions League winners and has been named Serie A player of the year three times in his native Italy.
Saturday night, however, was not one of them.
The 37-year-old looked more like a frustrated rookie than a grizzled and wise veteran on the play that decided New York City FC’s 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers before 23,651 at Yankee Stadium.
Not only did Pirlo have his pocket picked by Darren Maddocks, he did not defend the rest of the play, which resulted in Diego Valeri’s goal.
The result snapped City’s (15-8-5, 50) 10-game home unbeaten streak and left the second-place side nine points behind Toronto FC (17-3-8, 59 points), 4-0 winners over the San Jose Earthquakes yesterday, with seven matches remaining in its quest for the Supporters Shield.
“We’re too far behind,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said.
Portland (12-9-8, 44) moved into the Western Conference leader, pending the results of later matches.
The play in question occurred in the 44th minute. Maddocks stole the ball from Pirlo on the left side. While Pirlo threw his hands up as he appeared to try to get the referee’s attention, the Jamaican international motored down the wing into the penalty area and crossed to an open Valeri, who ripped a 13-yard shot into the left corner past goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Valeri, who recorded his 17th goal, tied an MLS record by scoring in his seventh consecutive match.
Vieira, a World Cup winner with France,wouldn’t criticize Pirlo.
“It happened we conceded a goal and this is part of the game,” he said. “You make a mistake and you get punished right away. We had players who make mistakes or wrong decisions and sometimes you concede a goal, sometimes you don’t concede a goal. That’s not the reason why we lost the game.”
Pirlo left the locker room before the media came in and many players were gone.
“These things happen,” said Johnson, who was superb, making seven saves. “At the end of the day, they were excellent getting to goal and finishing. We had the same opportunities they had . . . It’s every players’ job to have the next man’s back. We tried our best to do that and it just didn’t come off for us.”
Playing without MLS scoring leader David Villa for the second home game in four days, NYCFC managed to get two dangerous opportunities but goalkeeper Jeff Attinella saved Frederic Brillant’s point-blank diving header in the 47th minute and denied Jack Harrison’s shot from distance in the 57th minute.