In the franchise’s short history, New York City FC has never really had a bona fide right back to bolster the defense.
Over the past two years, manager Patrick Vieira has been forced to mix and match at the position with RJ Allen and Ethan White getting a lion’s share of the playing time during that stretch.
Both Allen and White are not with the club anymore and Vieira looks as though he found a concrete answer at right back when he signed Swedish defender Anton Tinnerholm from Malmo FF.
The 27-year-old won four Swedish titles with his former club in a five-year stretch and appeared in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League on two occasions.
While it’s just two games into the MLS season, Tinnerholm has already made a sizeable impact on his new club, headlined by his first-ever goal with NYCFC during Sunday evening’s home-opening win over LA Galaxy at Yankee Stadium.
In the 22nd minute of a scoreless match, the defender marauded into the Galaxy box and pounced on a loose ball, cracking a stunning left-footed effort off the crossbar and across the goal line, a surprisingly acrobatic and skilled finish from a right back on his opposite foot.
It opened the scoring in what would be a 2-1 NYCFC victory.
“The ball bounced to me and I got a great hit. It’s that simple. I’m not used to scoring with my left but today was the day and I got a really great hit,” Tinnerholm said. “Not even in training have I scored any goals like that. Couldn’t be better scoring in the home opener like that.”
Tinnerholm streaking down the wing is quickly becoming a common sight for the Blues, who are playing an aggressive, attacking brand of soccer under Vieira.
It’s different than what Tinnerholm was used to in Sweden, but his performance indicates that he is taking it in stride.
“The tempo is very high here. You don’t have much time with the ball. That’s the main difference compared to Europe,” he admitted. “The field is a little bit tighter and smaller so you need to know what you want to do with the ball and I think it’s good for our team because the opponent will feel that we’re pressuring them very high.”
The Galaxy could not string together any sort of offensive moves in the first half of Sunday’s match as that frenetic pace exhibited by NYCFC clearly rattled the visitors.
It was all a part of Vieira’s plan, who knew that Tinnerholm would have this kind of impact on his team.
“We have a clear philosophy and idea of the way we want to play the game and this is why it was important to bring in the right player to fit the system,” Vieira said. “So Anton likes to go forward and the way we like to play suits him really well.”
With the maximum six points taken from its first two matches, the philosophy is clearly working and Tinnerholm is playing his part as NYCFC hold an early share of the Eastern Conference lead.