“Hola Iraola!” Spanish Defender Set For Big Debut Against Toronto

Andoni Iraola’s first act with New York City FC will be a solo one.

The Spanish defender who was supposed to make his much-anticipated NYCFC debut along with Frank Lampard and Angelino will do so alone on Sunday against Toronto (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) as both Lampard and Angelino suffered injuries in training, forcing them to delay their debut until next week at New England.

Lampard spoke of sitting out Sunday’s game to NYCFC.com.

“I’m hugely disappointed to be missing out on Sunday’s game, which I have really been looking forward to,” “I’ve been feeling great in training and have loved working with the squad. Unfortunately I sustained a small strain to my calf during a session. Whilst I’ve been taking it day by day since then and have been involved in light training, I’ve just been advised by the medical team that it needs a few days’ rest for it to heal fully.”

Angelino is out of Sunday’s nationally televised match with an ankle sprain as NYCFC will be without at least four other players due to injury – Lampard, Angelino, Connor Brandt (adductor sprain), Javier Calle (quad strain).  Jason Hernandez (calf irritation) is probable for the match and will probably start while Sebastian Velasquez (quad irritation) is questionable.

With the “main attraction” out for Sunday’s match, let’s get to know the co-star, who will step into the New York City spotlight Sunday afternoon in the Bronx.

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The 32-year-old Andoni Iraola brings a lot of experience from Spain after spending his whole career with Athletic Bilbao.  Iraola made 510 appearances and scored 38 goals through 12 seasons.  He immediately upgrades a backline that has struggled throughout the season, despite seeing a slight improvement in play mainly from center back Shay Facey.

Iraola’s ability to help solidify the backline and create attack opportunities further up the field is something that could help NYCFC’s potential playoff run.

“I think it’s fantastic to be able to add a player with that much experience and quality at a critical time of the season,” NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis said.  “We are adding a versatile player like Andoni who is comfortable playing in a number of different positions within the team.  We are adding a great professional and a very experienced player.”

Between all of the new signings (Lampard, Iraola, Angelino and Pirlo), Iraola’s 510 appearances with Bilbao is the most with one club.

“I’ve only played for one club throughout my whole career and I knew after leaving Bilbao my first choice was always to play in the US and in New York,” Iraola said in a statement.  “This is a team with huge potential, passionate supporters, and I really wanted to be part of it.”

Iraola joins an NYCFC club that has been on fire since mid-May.  The Blues are 5-8-5 going into Sunday’s Eastern Conference matchup, winning four of their last five and recording points in seven of their last eight.  Since their 11-game winless streak in April and early May, NYCFC has lost just two games.

NYCFC has to hope that along with a potentially improved backline with Iraola, that they’re current undefeated streak against Canadian opponents continues.  Their 2-1 win at Montreal last Saturday extended their winning streak against Canadian opponents to three games in a row with the Blues going 2-0 so far in Canada.  They could also get lucky on Sunday, taking on a struggling Toronto club that is coming off of a 4-0 loss at the L.A. Galaxy and has only won one of their last four matches.

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