NYCFC are notorious for being on the wrong end of dominating results in knockout tournaments, but have been relatively high up in the standings since 2016. The US Open Cup is a tournament that NYCFC fans have never taken seriously because of how the team has performed over the last four season. Enter in the Round of 32, exit in the Round of 32 each season since 2015.
With Atlanta and the Red Bulls hands down the best in the East, it's really the battle for the best of the rest which I personally see as NYCFC versus Columbus Crew. So my expectation for a potential Supporters Shield push is low. Playoffs? Well when you have to compete with Atlanta and the Red Bulls and Columbus, a team capable of upsets, I just don't see NYCFC pushing past the Eastern Conference Semifinals for yet another season.
The US Open Cup is where it's at. NYCFC will be more than likely be drawn against the Red Bulls again, as the draw is based upon regional rivals. The Red Bulls have knocked NYCFC out of the competition the last two seasons and have notoriously been able to counter NYCFCs style, but the only way NYCFC can win is by parking the bus, avoid the high press and force a team not known for possession and who play with a high line and force them to keep possession and hit them on the break. NYCFC have fourteen Americans, while Matarrita, Chanot, and Ring to name a few have their green cards, qualifying them as domestic players. NYCFC can play almost a full strength XI with the better foreign players on the bench against honestly, the Red Bulls USL team. If NYCFC somehow advance, our "regional rivals" are DC, Philadelphia, and the Revolution, meaning, NYCFC could play at least one of those teams. All three are beatable, but the Revs have been able to get more good results against NYCFC than the others, while NYCFC have only one away win against DC all time. Assuming the Hudson River Derby occurs in the 4th Round, and NYCFC can knock the Red Bulls, there's no reason why they can't reach potentially the Quarterfinal.
With the amount of domestic players on the roster now and the Americans coming in this offseason, I'd assume NYCFC will seek to put up more of a fight in the US Open Cup. With no real proof that NYCFC will push into the 60 point range, or even get to 55 or so points, with little hope of pushing past the Eastern Conference Semifinals, NYCFC need to put a priority on the US Open Cup. If/when NYCFC get knocked out of the Cup, our season is over.
With two games of preseason down and both games against successful Scandinavian Clubs, NYCFC have shown promising signs. Despite not beating Copenhagen or AIK respectively, I saw lots of good signs, and was impressed by many individual performances. Here are four players who impressed me so far.
Alex Mitrita-The new Designated Player is not only NYCFCs record signing, but one of the most expensive incoming players in MLS history, to add on that he's the first DP signing after David Villa. Coming from Craiova of the Romanian Liga I, Mitrita was already in midseason form and had 12 goals and 4 assists in 16 appearances, and has 22 goals in his last 45 appearances dating back to last season. Not bad for a midfielder. In his first game for NYCFC, Mitrita impressed with a banging strike into the top corner of the goal only minutes into the second half, but also many chances created by the 23 year old. A very good and comfortable performance for a guy who only joined with the team a few days earlier.
Tony Rocha-This is a guy who I was rather concerned about when he signed from Orlando. An American defensive mid who barely played for Orlando, a team who've gotten worse by the season. Despite my doubt, Rocha showed fantastic versatility and energy as he showed he can cover for teammates in midfield as well as show great confidence and energy as a fullback. He's played very well. So far, he looks to be an upgrade on some of the depth players last season.
Luis Barraza-The first round draft pick that confused everyone, Barraza is now the fourth goal keeper under contract with NYCFC right now. Signing for the team before preseason even began, I was really concerned about the objective of the team, but that second half performance against Barraza was great. Very confident coming off his line and very comfortable with the ball at his feet, Barraza also had very good reactions.
Brad Stuver- My first impressions of Stuver were bad. Conceding eight goals in three appearances last season, showing a very nervous goalkeeper. His first half performance against Copenhagen showed a very different goalkeeper. He actually looked comfortable and had much better reactions. A somewhat MLS experienced goalkeeper, I'd be interested in how he'll perform for the rest of preseason, and probably in the U.S. Open Cup.
Joe Scally-The 16 year old right back signed as a home grown player last season and came on as a substitute for David Villa and played as a striker in the Open Cup loss to the Red Bulls last season and that was my only impression. In his two preseason games, he's shown his maturity on both sides of the ball. Scally was defensively calm and put a couple of dangerous crosses into the box. Learning from a guy like Tinnerholm, a man who has championship winning experience and has been super productive, scoring 4 goals and notched 6 assists in 32 appearances in 2018, and in the last two seasons with NYCFC and Malmo has 7 goals and 9 assists, I hope Scally can learn from a guy like that. So far, there are promising signs for one of many young Americans at NYCFC.
NYCFC took on the second most successful Danish team in FC Copenhagen this morning in a friendly. It was the first look at the team in the "Post Villa Era", and given it's only preseason, it wasn't the best performance, but there are some takeaways.
FC Copenhagen played very well in the first half, forcing NYCFC, and mainly Alex Callens into many mistakes. Senegalese striker Dame N'Doye had a few really good chances, but couldn't convert them. A more eventful second half saw a few tense moments, including Ismael Tajouri-Shradi getting wacked in the face by a Copenhagen midfielder, Tinnerholm getting shoved by the Copenhagen left back, and Jesus Medina having an exchange of words with one of Copenhagen's center backs. Copenhagen finished NYCFC within two minutes. Ben Sweat gave away a free kick in the 76th minute, and a minute later when Robert Skov cannons the ball into the near post. Only two minutes later, Andreas Bjelland scored a banging volley from a corner kick. Overall, Copenhagen got NYCFC uncomfortable in the first half and finished their chances in the second.
I've mentioned this a few times, but because it's the first game of preseason and a lot of these guys haven't played since early November, I'm not surprised by the performance. When the season hits, I think the team will probably have a better defensive record, especially if Chanot gets more playtime. The team was organized as a defensive unit and utilized the offside trap really well. I think as a defensive unit, they could do better putting pressure on the opponent. There is great depth in almost every position, but the big issue is the team doesn't have a striker/goal scorer. Maxi, Tajouri-Shradi, and Lewis can get in on the act, but two more signings who can get goals wouldn't hurt. Overall, I'm not too concerned after watching that.
Report: According to multiple reports coming out of Romania and the U.S. NYCFC have reached an agreement for a Designated player contract. NYCFC will reportedly be paying 7.5-8.5million dollars to complete the signing of the Romanian striker who will most likely be the replacement for David Villa. The 23-year-old Romanian striker currently has 18 goals in 32 appearances this season for Universitatea Craiova in the first division Romanian league & 6 appearances with the Romanian international team. He will be one of the most expensive players to ever join MLS.