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.