Contract: Alexandru Mitrita of Universitea Craiova is apparently set to sign for NYCFC. As of today, February 1st, 2019, Mitrita is apparently in Manchester finalizing a deal with NYCFC that will cost up to 8.5 million dollars with 20% future add ons which could raise his stock to almost 10 million dollars, making him one of the most expensive players in Romanian soccer and MLS history. Also, he would be the second most expensive player on the team after Maxi, with Mitrita worth 1 million dollars for four years. This 100% means that he has to perform from the get go in front of an increasingly impatient fanbase. From what it sounds like, he is the best player in the Romanian first division, probably a stretch, but kind of like Pulisic with the United States. Mitrita is a winger/attack mid and has scored 22 goals in 45 appearances since signing for his current club a year and a half ago.
The Player: With little information about him, I'm reluctant that he's worth the money NYCFC are supposedly willing to spend. Especially since the Clubs first three Designated Players all came on free transfers and only one of them performed, I'm unsure about a Romanian guy who couldn't make the cut for Pescara in Italy could suddenly reach DP quality in MLS. Looking at his highlights, he might make a semi smooth transition into MLS. He's aggressive and is fully capable at taking on defenders and has a lethal right foot. Mostly coming off the left wing, I wouldn't be surprised if Mitrita played on the left, Tajouri-Shradi as the center forward and Medina on the right wing, but, we could see Medina drop back and there could be some variation of a 4-4-2 with a couple of playmakers in midfield.
Major League Soccer: Let's be totally honest about MLS though, the defending and goalkeeping isn't always good. NYCFC have made a lot of mistakes in their short history and have had bad defensive performances a lot, but still have the fourth best defensive record over the last two seasons. MLS does lack a certain intensity, only a handful of teams maintain good intensity in this league. Like I said, the defending and goalkeeping in this league isn't great and an extremely aggressive player like Mitrita could succeed. I'm honestly serious when I say he reminds me of Sebastian Giovinco, and at the raw age of 23, Mitrita could be the next good player.
Overall: I personally do not think he is worth the amount of money being offered, especially from a team that has been fairly reluctant to spend transfer fees, then you go out and potentially spend potentially up to 10 million dollars worth of money on an unknown. That kind of money obviously means he will be a Designated Player (DP). I think you should sign him on a lower transfer fee and a lower salary, and if he impresses in that first season, maybe season and a half, then you could boost him to the 1 million dollar salary. Maybe it's just me, but don't rush it with the next DP. I do think he'd ultimately do well in MLS though.
Report: NYC FC have waived French Defender Cedric Hountondji. The 25-year-old just made one appearance for New York in 2018. Thoughts?!
NYCFC have been linked with various players and have signed a few guys throughout January, and a specific striker is rumored to be homesick. Despite a week left of the first month of 2019 to go, here is a recap of all rumors/reports and done deals this month.
Kevin Quevedo: This promising Peruvian youngster has been linked with a move to NYCFC since the end of last summer, but the player himself has finally played down the claims recently, committed to stay in Peru. Kevin Quevedo plays for Alianza Lima of Peru, and is a quick, versatile, and energetic forward who can play on either wing. With what NYCFC have right now in the front line, Quevedo wouldn't be bad, but the Peruvian will be staying in Peru for the foreseeable future.
Gary Mackay-Steven: A current forward for Aberdeen, Mackay-Steven is very similar to Quevedo in style. Quick, confident dribbler, and versatile. What makes this report interesting is that Sky Sports recently broke the news after an interview with Aberdeen coach Derek McInnis that NYCFC has approached the Club to speak with Mackay-Stevens's representatives. The Scottish wingers contract ends this summer, and has admitted he has spoken to NYCFC coach Domenec Torrent. He'd make a good signing for New York City, and would be a great addition to the front line.
Jo Inge Berget: This is an outgoing rumor for sure, but the injury prone and underperforming striker Jo Inge Berget is reportedly homesick. Reports suggest that Rosenborg of Norway and former Club Malmo in Sweden are interested in Berget. If you let him go, that's $800,000 yearly salary freed up, and with Villa's $5 million yearly salary freed up, this could free us up to really look at providing potential upgrades in the roster. I'll definitely give Berget another season at least, but if he has another year of mostly unimpressive performances and a good chunk of injuries, he has to be out the door.
Alexandru Mitrita: Finally, this is a weird one. NYCFC ACTUALLY WANT TO SPEND MONEY SIGNING A PLAYER. Romanian international, Alexandru Mitrita has been bang in form over the last 18 months. He currently plies his trade with Universitatea Craiova in Romania's top flight, and over the last two years he's scored 24 goals in 47 league appearances. This season, he has 13 goals in 16 appearances, and leads the Romanian league in goals. A very similar style to the first two players, I'd be interested in Mitrita. The Romanian international can play on either wing, or as an attacking midfielder (would be interesting to see him as a false 9). Craiova are willing to sell him for $6.5 million which smells like a DP Signing for most MLS teams, would NYCFC sign him? To CFG, that kind of money is absolutely nothing compared to the signings of Mahrez, De Bruyne, Mendy, etc. in Manchester. I'd like to see that money be spent, but who knows the real quality between MLS and Romania's top division.
Justin Haak: Our first Home Grown Player from the five boroughs, Justin Haak is the third ever signing after James Sands (signed in 2017) and Joe Scally (signed in 2018). Haak is a center midfielder who can play as a holding midfielder and as a box to box player. Haak is one of the first ever players to be in NYCFCs academy, and has been here for I believe for the full four seasons up until now. Haak knows the expectations, the style, and the players, but needs to be ready to compete in the big time. Best of luck, and hopefully you can be here for a while.
Keaton Parks (loan): Keaton Parks has recently signed from Benfica on a one year loan deal. His highlights show a player who is very comfortable on the ball and can find a pass. He'll be a great acquisition for the team for the upcoming season. Great experience for him and hopefully he can have a great year with NYC.
Ofori (loan): Ebenezer re-signs with NYCFC on yet another loan deal from VFB Stuttgart, but this time the loan deal has the option to buy. Ofori is reliable depth, will hold his position, but isn't as aggressive as Ring, who is the most probably depth to. It's great to have another familiar face with the team, and like Haak, Ofori knows the tradition of this young Club, he knows the expectation, and hopefully he can continue where he left off from in 2018.
There has been quite a negativity around NYCFC this offseason. The way 2018 ended after a fantastic start, losing both Villa, the Club President, Patrick Vieira, and Herrera in the same year, limited transfer rumors, mostly poor signings recently, limited spending on improving the roster, not much news on the preseason schedule, and still no stadium news makes me worry about the plan at NYCFC. Domenec Torrent is really in the hot seat, and if form continues into 2019, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't see the NYC dugout in 2020. Here are a few things I feel he needs to emphasize going into the Clubs fifth season. FYI, I will not be including any transfer business.
One thing that needs to be emphasized is home form. NYCFC have won 22 of their last 34 home games and have only lost 3 Regular Season games at home. Being able to maintain good home form is massive, especially with the new Playoff format, home field advantage is massive. Torrent needs to emphasize good home form and hopefully the team can make it increasingly difficult for the visitors to Yankee Stadium.
Secondly, is NYCFC getting off to a good start. NYC have a seemingly comfortable Spring schedule. Teams that they should be getting results against are Orlando, Chicago, Montreal, and DC (at home), each of these teams NYC play twice by the end of May. The potentially difficult games will include Minnesota's home opener, LAFC at home, LA Galaxy and Toronto away. In total, those are 12 games by May 31st, so if NYCFC can win at least half those games, including maintaining a home unbeaten streak in that time, I think it'll be good.
Leadership in the locker room is crucial. There have been a few suggestions on who should be the next captain, but there's a good amount of experience and youth in this team. In goal, NYC have two MLS experienced goalies in Sean Johnson and Brad Stuver, defense Alex Callens has been a mainstay in the lineup, Chanot and Matarrita have been with the Club since 2016, Tinnerholm has Champions League experience, while Scally, Ibeagha, and Sweat are all domestic players with different levels of experience. Midfield Alex Ring is an absolute beast and has to be a mentor to James Sands, Tony Rocha does bring a certain level of MLS/USL experience, while Danny Bedoya is a local guy who probably has a grudge on his shoulder about not playing last season. Maxi Moralez has experience in both Europe and South America, and was by far NYCFCs best player in 2018, so if Maxi and Ring can act as leaders for the rest of the midfield, that would be great. The front line has little experience, Medina, Castellanos, and Lewis are all 21, Tajouri-Shradi has some level of experience with Austria Wien who are a top team in Austria. Despite not being necessarily a great player when it comes to the stats, Jo Inge Berget is a title winner with Malmo and Molde, and limited experience with Celtic. As long as players like Ring, Johnson, Matarrita, Chanot, etc., act as leaders/motivators and good influences to the younger players, we definitely have a team for the future.
Summer results are important, and NYC are usually good in the summer, with a decline usually hitting in the final two months. Specifically in July and August, NYC have to play the Red Bulls, Seattle, Kansas City, Columbus, and Portland at home, and the Red Bulls, Cincinnati, and Atlanta away. Getting results in that span is crucial, and eight out of eleven games in that span are against teams who will definitely be playoff teams. Proving you can get results against these teams, which NYC have been able to prove at points in recent seasons is crucial. Especially when it comes down to momentum, getting results against multiple teams who have been competing for titles in such a short amount of time will be a massive boost for a team who have made it clear they want to win some titles themselves.
Overall, it's just building momentum and making life difficult for your opponents which NYCFC have proven at certain points in recent seasons. Ideally, I'd love to see NYCFC push for 60+ points and put together a deep run in the Playoffs and/or the US Open Cup, but as of now without a good striker, I see NYC finishing in the low 50s for points at best and hopefully something in either Cup Competitions as a successful season.
NYCFC have proven to have a surprisingly good record without David Villa who missed 20 games over his four years with the Club. The Spaniard was the face of NYCFC scoring 80 goals in 124 appearances, but New York City were fine without Villa, winning 11 of the 20 games he missed, including a 5-1 win over Colorado Rapids in 2016, and a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake in 2018. David missed 12 games in 2018, in that time, the Club won 7 games, tied 2, and lost 3. Here are players who will shine without David Villa.
Jo Inge Berget- Despite rumors circulating that he is unhappy in New York and is looking for a return to Europe, Berget actually played better without David Villa. Berget scored four goals and got three assists last season, and with David Villa out of the team, Berget scored four goals and got two assists. It seemed Torrent figured out Berget with playing the long ball and using Bergets hold up play was a key factor to the Vikings limited success. If Berget were to stay, don't be surprised if he came off the bench in losing positions to try and help win games.
Jesus Medina- A Designated Player who was incredibly inconsistent in 2018, Jesus Medina has the making of a playmaker and potentially the long term replacement for Maxi Moralez. The Paraguayan forward scored six goals and had seven assists in 2018, and was shining in NYCFCs early unbeaten run in which David Villa missed four games in that span. Medina also shined in the July scoring four goals and got two assists over the seven games that Villa had missed. An injury in August and inconsistencies in the lineup did halt his good form, but there's a good season ahead. A second season in New York, knowing what's expected from him, and now hopefully comfortable in the area, don't be surprised if the playmaker gets into double figures for assists.
Jonathan Lewis- A clearly talented winger who has made 25 appearances in his previous two seasons, Jonathan Lewis is a talented player who has had an impact. Who can forget that 94th minute winner against New England? Or the 85th minute game winning assist for Maxi Moralez against the Red Bulls? In limited action, Lewis impressed former Columbus Crew and new USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter enough to get a call up to the senior national team for a training camp. Additionally, Jonathan Lewis has a gotten a lot of attention from the NYCFC media team at the training camp, and with Villa gone, we could see some movement in the front line with our wingers which could be a positive for the young player. Quick and instinctive, Lewis needs a big year, and he could play as an auxiliary striker for the first half of the season, which could only be a good thing for him and NYCFC.
The Defense- I know this is kind of cheating, but NYCFC were more defensive minded without Villa in 2018. NYC kept 10 shutouts in 2018, 6 in 12 games without Villa, while only 4 shutouts in 22 games with Villa. As long as the defense has better focus and Sean Johnson gets more of a challenge from the back up goalies, I wouldn't be surprised in NYCFC get a bit more defensive, especially against teams like Atlanta and the Red Bulls.
Rumor: According to multiple reports coming out of the UK. 28-year-old Scottish winger, Gary Mackay-Steven could potentially be joining NYCFC for the upcoming 2019 season. The Scottish winger currently plays for Aberdeen after recently playing for Celtic from 2015-2017. He has 2 appearances with the Scottish national team.
NYCFC head into the new season with cloud over them, a vacant throne, and no stadium news. With the schedule being released about an hour ago, I thought I'd recap the games I'm looking forward to.
On March 17th, LAFC come to New York for the first ever time in their two years of MLS as they visit Yankee Stadium. In 2018, NYC and LAFC played out to an entertaining 2-2 tie. LAFCs biggest issue last year was their defense, while a big issue I think NYCFC will face is converting chances. I think the field size will help NYCFC, but I'm expecting probably a similar game to the Regular Season meeting with Atlanta in NY, the one where NYCFC had almost two thirds of possession, 25 shots, 10 on target, hitting the post four times, and forcing Brad Guzan to make nine saves. I see a similar game panning out on St. Patrick's Day against LAFC, but maybe NYCFC can actually convert chances, maybe they won't.
April 13th, NYCFC will be the first guests to Minnesota United's Allianz Field. A beautiful stadium and I'm kind of jealous. It'll be a great game for sure. The last meeting, Minnesota managed to pounce on defensive errors from NYCFC to win 2-1 in the last game of September of 2018. NYCFC will likely struggle to convert chances again, but I feel like we'll be the first victims of a potentially solid Minnesota home team. Honestly, as of now I'd be happy with a point from that game.
NYCFC are set to host FC Cincinnati at Yankee Stadium on June 6th. Honestly, I'm just hyped to see what they're up to. I feel like Cincinnati will be a bit conservative, and that defense seems to be solid. I think NYCFC will dominate the midfield, but will struggle to score, and we could see a repeat of what went down in the two home losses last year. Cincinnati will be very defensive minded and Fanendo Adi will be scoring a header after a Greg Garza cross to give Cincinnati a 1-0 win.
Obviously both Hudson River Derbies I'm looking forward to. The first one is July 14th at Red Bull Arena, and the previous two games weren't pretty, but MAYBE we have something happening for us. The home meeting is on August 24th during Rivalry Week. NYCFC are unbeaten against the Red Bulls in their last four visits to New York. Also, the last six League meetings against the Red Bulls is solid, 3 wins, 2 ties and a loss, with a combined score of 8-8. I'm confident NYCFC can get a result, but the high press is the kryptonite of possession based soccer, so maybe we will see a more defensive minded NYCFC who will hit them on the break.
The last home game is on a Wednesday against Atlanta. I'm just going to make a really simple guess and say attendances won't be great. I get we're second fiddle at our stadium, but playing against the defending champions on a Wednesday in September will kind of make us look bad. Not all teams can get as high numbers as Atlanta MLS. My big take away is that it's our last home game of the Regular Season against a team that NYCFC have been able to go toe to toe with in the past, so I'd be interested in seeing how that plays out.
Finally, Decision Day against Philadelphia Union. A second year in a row against them. How did Decision Day play out in 2018? An overlooked build up between two cities are sporting rivals, 3rd place NYCFC were two points ahead of 4th place Philadelphia, obviously the winner confirms third place, a tie would confirm third spot for NYCFC, and if other results had to go the way of the Union if they wanted home field advantage in the playoffs. NYCFC won 3-1 in a very tense game and the Union ended up finishing in 6th, so NYCFC and the Union would meeting three days later in the Playoffs, which NYCFC won yet again 3-1. I'm also interested because this is in Philadelphia, I'd like to see how the Union players and fans respond to what happened in 2018. I'm really excited for this series specifically, because I feel like the schedule makers are low key turning this into a rivalry. After seeing both NYCFC and Philadelphia's schedules, and I'm assuming based on results, these two will be near each other again which will lead up to another hard fought game. When the Decision Day and Playoff meetings had fights and arguments last year, along with the confrontation between Matarrita and Ilsinho during the loss in Philadelphia last year, I'm kind of expecting some more flavor.
I've been thinking about this a lot, and with 55 days before NYCFCs fifth season starts, there's a lot of concern. With limited funds already put into the roster to see NYCFC finish around 55 points and get knocked out of same round in both the Playoffs and U.S. Open Cup for three straight years, NYCFC fans want more. There's a clear model in Atlanta who spent a lot of money on a beautiful stadium, brought in an experienced coach, and talented players to win MLS Cup in only their second season. While NYCFC fans look at their last ten signings and see six of them were free agents and play in a baseball stadium. Especially since our affiliate, Manchester City have spent over 50 million dollars on five of their last seven first team signings. We know the figures our owners can spend, we know that there is quite literally an international scouting network, as our owners have teams based in every continent except for Africa. With two important players to our Starting XI gone in David Villa and Yangel Herrera, NYCFC need to look at replacing those two. With NYCFC not playing for two months, and a little under two months before the season starts, it's a little concerning that NYCFC haven't made a major signing other than Tony Rocha from Orlando who is expected to be depth in midfield.
Roster wise, NYCFC are in a decent enough season. Callens, Ring, Johnson, and Moralez are all going into their third seasons, Tinnerholm, Medina, and Tajouri-Shradi will be in their second year, while we have Chanot and Matarrita going into their fourth seasons, with additional depth in various positions, there isn't much stress in defense and on the wings. This team should make the Playoffs, but when it comes to a Playoff or US Open Cup run, I'm not buying it. There' s experience and youth in our team which is what's needed, but what currently lacks is a true goal scorer. Maxi, Tajouri-Shradi, and others can pitch in, but don't expect them to be the highest scoring players in the league. Jonathan Lewis and Jo Inge Berget can be good impacts off the bench, but I'm not expecting them to start. I just hope Berget doesn't start, but with that salary ($800,000) I wouldn't be surprised if he does. I will actually lose it if we have to rely on Berget who I feel is an overpaid amateur who has probably been injured with NYCFC more times than he's scored. Berget is not a good striker, he had glimpses for sure, but he's only gotten into double figures in his career once, with Malmo in 2017. Jo is probably a great guy, but he's never proven that he's a reliable goal scorer. Additionally, there is no other striker with the team, which means NYCFC must go all out on a new striker.
Another thing is that if NYCFC don't replace Herrera, it's going to be a tough season. NYC NEED a center mid who can actually start games. Ideally an American, and if reports suggest, NYCFC will be signing Academy player Justin Haak, who, yes is American, and is known to be capable of playing various roles in midfield, but isn't experienced. In midfield depth, we know we having a promising player in James Sands, Dan Bedoya who hasn't had a sight at any game time since he signed from the Long Island Rough Riders, and Tony Rocha, a bad player from what I've heard. NYCFC need a midfielder who can force himself into the starting lineup. Ideally, a box-to-box midfielder who can really have an impact.
The coaching situation is an odd one. What I loved about Patrick Vieira was that he had a no bs attitude, addressed the teams biggest weaknesses in the transfer windows, and got the best out of the team. He turned realistically a mediocre MLS team at best, into Supporters Shield hopefuls in two and a half years. Domenec Torrent, who came in during the summer got off to a solid start, but performances declined when injuries hit and too many players lost their touch at the same time. Torrent clearly has an understanding of the game, but I feel like he's come in overly confident with what he can do. I gave into it when he signed, Pep Guardiola's right hand man for a decade, helping Guardiola guide three different teams to seven league titles in a nine year period is an extraordinary record, and Torrent has worked with some of the best players over the last decade, meaning he has work with egos. He comes in, kind of like a philosopher, but when the team isn't performing, he continues the same sort of vain, he just seems like a complete d-bag. It doesn't help when he curses at a report for asking a genuine question. The best analogy I can come up with is this, my physics teacher is a former engineer, and has taught physics for at least 10 years. Obviously knows what he's talking about, but when it comes down to explaining what to do, and making sure the kids know what he's talking about, is where he lacks and that's his job, to explain how to do it. Torrent knows what he's doing, but I feel like he doesn't know how to explain it.
When it comes down to transfer rumors, they've been limited. From what I've got, two strikers have reportedly rejected offers from NYCFC, while we've also been linked with 34-year old, Paraguayan goalkeeper, Antony Silva, who has recently been released by his Club Cerro Porteno. The only other rumor includes Peruvian forward Kevin Quevedo of Alianza Lima. From his highlights, Quevedo seems to have a lot of energy, and is a handful for defenses. I would like him here at NYCFC, but that means either a winger has to go, or someone will change positions. I really think that the only wingers capable of switching positions are Jesus Medina to a central mid alongside Maxi Moralez, or Tajouri-Shradi to a center forward. Ideally in that situation, it's Medina to an attacking mid. Especially with Maxi getting up there in age, he can't be everywhere, so Maxi could drop back as a CDM alongside Ring, Medina as the #10, then Quevedo on the left wing, Isi on the right wing, and someone as the striker.
What's a formation the team should use? For me, I'd like to see a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3:
GK: Sean Johnson
Stuver, Ibeagha, Sweat, Sands, Rocha, Bedoya, Castellanos
With this current roster, I want to see a team that can be defensively organized, and hit you on the break. Defensively, the can set up as a 4-1-4-1, try to reduce passing lanes, and really make it difficult for opponents to press and thread passes through. In attack, I'd give Maxi and Media the license to roam, full backs the freedom to push up, Alex Ring should keep his position, and I'd have Berget use his hold up play as Tajouri-Shradi and Lewis make runs in behind the oppositions defense. Castellanos can come off the bench if necessary, Sands can come off the bench to help keep the flow of the game, while Rocha and Ibeagha would come off the bench to help shut up shop.
What are my current predictions? With all honesty, Red Bulls and Atlanta should be the Top 2 in the East, with the NYC battling it out with Columbus, Toronto, and maybe Cincinnati for the higher seed. I do think NYCFC have enough good players to get into the Playoffs, but will need pure luck if they want a deep run, which for me would be at least the Conference Finals, but NYC probably won't make it beyond the Conference Semis again. In the U.S. Open Cup, it'll be a miracle if NYCFC even score in that tournament, and we should get one of those participation trophies if we advance to the 5th Round. NYCFC have been knocked out of the 4th Round of the Cup each year, and haven't scored in the Open Cup since 2015 (our inaugural year). Which is the reason why many fans haven't taken it seriously. Realistically, we won't make it past the 4th Round, but I hope I'm wrong. We just need a few big signings, but then again, who wants to play soccer in a baseball stadium? 2019 will be an intriguing season in the Post-Villa Era, with the best years in the league behind us, I've got butterflies.
With Villa gone and Domenec Torrent in his first offseason as head coach, there are a lot of questions about how good NYCFC can be next season. One of the big questions is who will take up the Captaincy? Here are my four picks to take the armband after David Villa. In no specific order, here's my list.
As my followers had voted on Instagram, Atlanta United are the NYCFCs biggest rivals other than the Red Bulls, getting 68% of the voters saying yes. The most hated current MLS Franchise just won MLS Cup following a very good year. Atlanta just wrapped up their second season finishing 2nd in the East and 2nd Overall with the best record in MLS history to not win a Supporters Shield. In their MLS Cup run, they beat NYCFC, the Red Bulls, and Portland Timbers.
NYCFC and Atlanta first met in 2017 at Yankee Stadium. Two strong recent expansion teams played out to a very entertaining 3-1 NYCFC win. Atlanta returned the favor beating NYCFC 3-1 at the Bobby Dodd, with all three Atlanta goals coming between the 16th and 23rd minutes. 2017 finished with NYCFC finishing 2nd in the East and 2nd Overall with 57 points, and Atlanta finished with two less points and tied with Chicago for 3rd.
2018 was really where you can judge certain "intensity." NYCFC and Atlanta played twice in the Regular Season, tying both games. The first game was a dramatic 2-2 draw in Atlanta. The hosts put a ton of pressure on NYCFC, and Atlanta got a disallowed goal because an offside Nagbe was standing in Sean Johnsons line of view. Alex Ring scored his first NYCFC goal with a shot from distance that went bar down into the Atlanta net. Not only was it an entertaining game, but it was very physical game. 27 fouls were committed and six cards were handed out. The next meeting at Yankee Stadium, on June 9th, ended in a 1-1 tie. In Patrick Vieiras final game in charge, NYC were incredibly unlucky to not win that game. Almost 2/3 of possession, twice as many shots on target than Atlanta had in total, the game was sadly a tie. This was the least physical game between the two sides, with 25 fouls and only four cards handed out. The early stages of the season made it look like NYCFC and Atlanta would battle it out for the Supporters Shield, but the Red Bulls, who had games in hand at the time, and therefore chasing the Top 2, soon caught up in a record breaking Supporters Shield win. Atlanta ended up finishing a position ahead of NYCFC in the East anyway, but there was a 13 point difference between the two sides.
The Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2018 came along. NYCFC and Atlanta faced off in the most brutal Playoff series of the year. Even with two rivalries in that same round, NYCFC and Atlanta really brought the game to each other. Despite the aggregate score being 4-1, NYCFC again dominated multiple stats in both games, as Atlanta were definitely conservative for a game and a half. Lets just say, in 210 minutes between Portland and Seattle, widely considered to be the biggest rivalry in MLS, there were 54 fouls and 5 yellow cards. Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake was also a " rivalry game", with 56 fouls and 7 yellow cards in 180 minutes. Even Atlanta and the Red Bulls is shaping up to being a heated rivalry, but only 42 fouls and 2 yellow card over two games. How about NYCFC and Atlanta? Over two legs, they saw 75 fouls and 11 cards handed out. In four meetings against Atlanta, it is by far the most physical contest NYCFC participated in in 2018. Statistically, it was more physical than the Hudson River Derby which saw 111 fouls, 10 yellow cards and 2 red cards, versus Atlanta and NYCFC facing 127 fouls and 21 yellow cards handed out. There's obviously more to it than fouls and cards given, but isn't physicality what we want in games? In four meetings just in 2018 to consistently be physical, plus the Regular Season record that's even as you'd like, one NYC win, one Atlanta win, and two ties, with a combined score of 7-7, it's definitely a intriguing game to watch.
Is it a rivalry? It definitely has an intensity to on the field, I think the players see the games against each other as big games. Like I just mentioned, it's a very close series in the Regular Season, and I think there's potential for a rivalry for sure, but because they've played only six times, I'll have it wait. Also Atlanta fans will probably look at the Red Bulls as big rivals because of the Supporters Shield race and the meeting deep in the Playoffs in 2018, and meetings like this will most likely continue, but also with Inter Miami coming in a few seasons, just watch Atlanta versus Miami become one of, if not the biggest games in MLS. Final judgement, NYCFC versus Atlanta has what it takes to become a "rivalry", but I'll give it time, and from their perspective, we won't be near that number one sport. Atlanta is the most hated MLS team right now, until Austin FC come into the league, so it's nothing too special between NYC and Atlanta.