With the dawn of the 2019 MLS season mere days away, there is still one significant question regarding New York City Football Club: who will be playing striker?
Head coach Domenec Torrent has stated multiple times in the preseason that the acquisition of a new striker was looming in the coming weeks, but as of now that statement is still unfulfilled. But there are options both within and outside of the organization that could potentially fill the David Villa sized chasm in the roster.
In City’s final preseason tuneup match against USL and future MLS side Nashville SC, Torrent deployed a lineup that featured new DP Alexandru Mitriță in the striker position, but shortly into the first half he switched places with Jonathan Lewis, who started the game playing on the left wing. Mitriță did score on a wonderful bending strike from outside of the penalty box in the 40th minute to extend the lead to 2-0, which was the final score of the match. Lewis played fairly well when he switched places with Mitriță, and had a couple of very quality scoring chances but just couldn’t convert. Lewis was sent in on goal with the just Nashville’s goalkeeper to beat from a wonderful through ball from left back Ben Sweat, but he completely scuffed the opportunity. Lewis also drew a free kick from a dangerous area outside of the box, but upon replay it was clear that he embellished the contact, going forward in a VAR assisted MLS, that might not be a smart strategy for Lewis, especially since in an earlier preseason match, he was sent off on a second yellow for embellishment. Lewis does not have the reputation of a Neymar to get away with flopping on the ground like that and frankly he’s too good of a player to resort to tactics like that.
Even if City brings in a new striker, there won’t be enough time to integrate that player into the lineup in time for the first game in Orlando on March 2nd. So for the time being, it will be either Mitriță or Lewis up front in the striker role. A front three of Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Mitriță with all three switching roles as needed throughout the match would be a very interesting attack at least for the first couple of matches of the new season, with solid delivery service from Maxi Moralez. Medina made a pivotal run on Mitriță’s goal, pulling away the center backs which gave Mitriță the space needed to put the ball in the back of the net. The fluidity and versatility of all of the attacking players they have is the one thing that City can hang their hat on.
However, there have been multiple reports linking City to a couple of prolific strikers in recent weeks. They failed to sign Spanish striker Carlitos from Polish side Legia Warsaw earlier in the month, which might’ve solved the issue but he has bounced around the world a lot, signifying a lack of consistency. The Athletic’s Kristian Dyer has recently reported that NYCFC had a “level of interest” in Italian American forward Giuseppe Rossi. Rossi is a 32 year old striker who has been training with Manchester United and is out of contract, so there wouldn’t be a transfer fee involved, and Rossi is a native of New Jersey so there is definitely a connection to be drawn. Rossi has been linked to City in years past but it never has come to fruition, and Rossi has been injury prone for the majority of his career, so there is a level of risk involved if a move is made here. City does have a decent amount of allocation money to make a signing like this, it’s a matter of weighing out the potential risk versus the reward. Also it is yet to be seen if Rossi has any interest in playing in the Bronx for the Pigeons.
Dyer had also reported that the Los Angeles Galaxy were looking to move striker Ola Kamara, and that there was interest from a club in China, and a team in the Eastern Conference was looking to acquire Kamara via a trade. Although City wasn’t explicitly mentioned, it would be a perfect fit. Kamara is a proven goal scorer in MLS for both the Galaxy and the Columbus Crew, scoring 48 goals in 100 appearances in the past three seasons for both clubs, and is out of a starting job, due to the Galaxy’s signing of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Kamara wants to play more and if traded to City he would immediately be the number one option at striker for the boys in blue.
A front three of Kamara, Mitriță, and Tajouri-Shradi with Medina and Lewis as bench options would be a very intriguing and dynamic offense. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Galaxy had just confirmed that Kamara is no longer with the club and is en route to China to finalize a transfer with a Chinese club. What seems to be a reoccurring theme this winter, City missing out on potential targets in the striker role.
For the time being, City will have to march onward to Orlando this Saturday, and luckily for them, Orlando has been a bit of a mess lately the past couple of years, but they are trying to right the ship. However, even with City’s limited options up front, they still have the firepower to get past the porous defense of Orlando. City are clearly the better side and anything less than three points would be a disappointment to the players, coaching staff, and supporters alike. After that City has their home opener Sunday, March 10th, against the Wayne Rooney led D.C United at Yankee Stadium.
Things are finally starting to take shape as the dawn of the new season is finally upon us, and we can see what kind of product City gives us in 2019.
Featured Image: nycfc.com