One of the biggest problems NYCFC had last year was a lack of depth and quality after their initial starting lineup.
This led to their downfall in the postseason against Atlanta United where they were clearly outclassed in every facet of the game, on and off the pitch. Injuries and international duty left City shorthanded often in the latter parts of the regular season and that proved costly in the long run. The lack of depth was especially evident in the midfield, where after losing Yangel Herrera to an ankle injury, there was an obvious drop off in quality and was a deterrent in any potential success of the club last year. This problem was noticed by the club as they have acquired players this winter to potentially eliminate the concern going forward. Will it pay off? Only time will tell.
Any conversation about the New York midfield begins with the new captain and fan favorite Alexander Ring. When he’s on the field, there is no player that exemplifies the tone and spirit of both the fan-base and the city of New York itself. He’s physical, gritty, and has a nastiness about him on the pitch that makes him extraordinarily difficult to play against. He is the defensive rock of both the midfield and the club as a whole and he’s everywhere on the pitch at once it seems at times. This nastiness however has lead to yellow cards and occasionally suspensions due to card accumulation.
In his absence, City’s first player signed to a Homegrown contract, eighteen year old James Sands would be a likely candidate to replace him in a pinch. Sands was on loan last season with Louisville City, of the USL, but the club has very high hopes with him and his potential. He’s another year older and more developed and although he’s not the first option as a six, with more minutes and experience, he can be a viable backup option going forward this season.
Keaton Parks will likely be playing the two way “eight” role in this formation, but there are a myriad of options in this spot. Parks has the pedigree of playing for a major club in Europe, where he played for Benfica in Portgual, albeit in a limited role but he is here to play as much as possible. He has creativity in the passing game, the height and size to win aerial duels and clearances, and the tenacity needed to succeed in MLS. Ebenezer Ofori played this position in Herrera’s place after injury and he was pedestrian at times. However, the transition from playing in Germany to the U.S. is often complicated and sometimes the adjustment period can take a while. Ofori chose to come back here on loan again which indicates that he’s comfortable here and if he can tap into his potential, the sky is the limit. City had also recently acquired nineteen year old U.S. national Juan Pablo Torres from Belgian club K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen. He didn’t play much with Lokeren, but he has substantial experience with the U.S. youth national team and another decent bench option.
Maxi Moralez will be the man in the attacking role and given his MVP seaon last year, similar production is expected of NYCFC’s Spiderman. Moralez scored City’s only goal in a pre-season friendly against Orlando City SC, a curling ball from distance which was the highlight of the night, in a losing effort. Still, after an up and down 2017 and the incredible 2018 he had, he will be responsible for both goal scoring, and supplying the front line with nifty passing and creative ways to get the ball in the net for the club. Winger Jesus Medina has played the attacking midfielder role sparingly with the club last year in Moralez’s place, and even new DP signing Alexandru Mitrita has played the role in the past as well. Versatility and flexibility is the name of the game for NYCFC and having multiple options in all of the midfield spots in necessary for the club’s goals of winning MLS cup.
City has it’s next pre-season friendly in a few hours today, February 20th, against Minnnesota United, and then they play future MLS team, Nashville Soccer Club on Friday the 22nd at 8:00 which will be televised on the YES network. It is likely that the club will deploy as close of a lineup that we will see in the regular season and should be a good litmus test of where the club is at so far. Alexandru Mitrita hasn’t been with the club since they’ve arrived to Orlando, as he is still waiting on his work visa, but should be with the team in the near future. Also, Domenec Torrent has stated multiple times lately that the team is still trying to add a pure striker in the next week or so, which is the one gaping chasm the roster has.
The midfield is where most clubs all around the world either sink or swim, and combined with the new additions and the existing stalwarts of Ring and Moralez, City have a good chance of anyone else in MLS to succeed.
Featured Image: thescore.com