New York City FC is now midway through the season and it’s a perfect time to sit back and compare where they are with where the Nation (and friends!) thought they would be. It’s a time for reflection, analysis and of course, our NYCFC Nation Mid-season Report.
I asked the Nation staff and some of the best NYCFC beat writers, bloggers, and podcasters to chime in with their answers to the teams performance, certain players and the staff.
Great reading for the long week break and before our match against Toronto FC.
Currently New York City FC sits in 3rd place, five points behind Toronto FC and Chicago Fire SC. Is this what you expected half way through the season?
Chris P. (NYCFC Nation Staff Writer): Well, I had no idea Chicago would be so good. I thought we’d be neck and neck with Toronto for the Eastern Conference lead and sure enough here we are.
Nick Chavez (NYCFC Nation Contributor): I expected NYCFC to be in the top 3 of the East, so yes.
Chris Magalee (NYCFC Nation Staff Writer): I think anyone who said they’d expected us to be looking up at Chicago at the beginning of the season is a liar. That said, I expected us to be at or near the top, which we are. I did expect it to be a little tighter of a race, though.
Martin Bihl (Last Word on Soccer): No. Anyone who tells you they thought Chicago would be where they are is lying to you.
Roddy Russell Jr. (NYCFC Nation Contributor): I will be a strict fan and say yes. The moves made in the off-season showed me that Patrick Vieira and Claudio Reyna had a clear goal, to be better than last season. The squad has performed up to expectations, and in some matches have exceeded expectations.
Michael Anderer (Blue City Radio): I expected them to be higher. Their own performance has not worried me as much as the rise of Chicago. I knew Toronto would be a team NYCFC would be battling at the top.
Reece O’Brien (NYCFC Nation Contributor): Pretty much, I expected NYCFC to be in the top half of the table and that’s where we are currently sat.
Arthur Kogan (NYCFC Nation Contributor): More or less: Yes. I expected us to be right at the top of the Eastern Conference with Toronto, but Chicago has definitely been a surprise. They’re a legitimate MLS contender with the leagues leading goal scorer (Nemanja Nikolic), emergence of David Accam, addition of Dax McCarty – oh, and that guy Bastian Schweinsteiger. I’d give the slight edge to New York City FC over Chicago Fire SC if they met in the playoffs, but Toronto still gets the slight edge over both sides.
Juan Carlos Rubiano (NYCFC Nation Photographer): It rarely goes the way you expect it but I can’t be upset with where we are right now. We have something to prove this year and both [Chicago and Toronto] will be looking over their shoulder next week. I’m just fine with the opportunity ahead and the potential to make a statement.
The Cooligans (Alexis & Christian): Yeah. They ended up in 2nd at the end of last season and the competition has gotten better. We’re more surprised they’re 3rd in the league and how few goals they’ve let in this season.
What has been your favorite game and goal this season?
#NostraChavez: Favorite game: 2-0 Win in Red Bull Arena. Favorite Goal: Villa’s 50-Yard Chip v. Union.
CM: Favorite game was unquestionably ATL at home. The best 90 minutes this club has ever put in. My favorite goal was probably Tommy McNamara vs San Jose (Alternate Angle). This goal showcases what this team can do when it is firing on all cylinders. Just a beautiful goal there.
MB: Beating the Red Bulls in Harrison. Favorite goal? Villa’s midfield shot against Philly.
RRJR: Favorite game so far in NYCFC history, to take this further, would be this year’s home opener. Out of the five matches I’ve ever gone to, this was the only win. Favorite goal, emotionally, Harrison’s goal against Red Bull. First time with a lead at Red Bull Arena which led to the first away HRD win for NYCFC.
MA: Favorite game was the win at Red Bull Arena. I think most people will say that given the history and the Open Cup loss. My favorite goal was probably the Maxi free kick assist to Villa. 73′ versus Orlando. Yes it comes in a game NYCFC lost. Yes they were wearing those stupid Parley kits. But in a game where Bendik made some great saves, Villa proved he was better.
RO: David Villa’s halfway line goal of course. Favourite game – Columbus 2-3 NYCFC.
AK: NY Red Bulls 0 – 2 New York City FC. Favorite Goal: David Villa’s 52nd against Minnesota United. It was individual class from the MLS MVP, who nutmegged a defender and then proceeded to dribble by a few others with ease, topping it off with a clinical finish with his “”weaker left foot.”” But most importantly, Villa celebrated by kissing the badge. And that was great.
JCR: 2-0 Redbulls. Tie between Villa vs. Philly and Villa vs. Minnesota.
TC Alexis: Jack Harrison’s goal against Red Bull at RBA (game and goal)
TC Christian: Seattle Sounders rain game. Villa’s half-pitch goal against Blake.
Removing David Villa, who is your NYCFC Player of the…mid-year and why?
CP: Jack Harrison. 8 goals and 2 assists. NYCFC are truly a multi-pronged offense thanks to Harrison (and Wallace) which means teams can’t stop NYCFC offensively as easily as they could in the past.
NC: Alexander Ring. He has given NYC’s midfield teeth, more energy, far better defensive coverage, he is strong/intelligent in possession. Incredible engine, can go box-to-box all game.
CM: I haven’t seen any of the other contributor’s answers, but I bet all of them say Alex Ring. They’re right. To say anyone else is to be lying to yourself. Alex Ring leads the league in tackles as well as duels won, I believe. He’s been at the forefront of a completely-revamped midfield that his seen Patrick Vieira’s vision come to fruition. Without Ring, this team is hopelessly worse than it is today.
MB: Alex Ring. Smart, talent, speed, vision – the guy has it all. Let’s hold on to him.
RRJR: Jack Harrison. Second highest goal scorer for the club. All the analysts were asking how City would replace Frank Lampard’s goals, and Jack Harrison answered that question easily.
MA: Alex Ring, really? You need an explanation?
RO: Yangel Herrera. He’s been incredible since he’s came into the team and replaced Pirlo. You could see when he was away with Venezuela NT that’s a city missed his presence in midfield. Special shout to Harrison too.
AK: Alexander Ring. Last year, New York CIty FC didn’t have an issue scoring goals. The issue was defending leads, getting clean sheets and having a defensive rock to break up play and win possession. Ring has done all of that, and has effectively made the team better at playing from the back. He’s confident on the ball, and his defensive impact speaks for itself. He leads the league with 4.7 tackles per game , and has the 3rd highest overall rating on the team without having yet scored a goal. He has surpassed all expectations with his play, both in attack and defense, and has been the player this team has been missing for a long time.
JCR: Number 11. Still maturing, the kid continues to prove his quality and is full of potential. Best is yet to come from our Jack.
TC: Jack Harrison. Development has come to the next level and he’s shown that he’s an integral part of the starting 11.
Which NYCFC player have you been most surprised with and why?
CP: Callens. He came in, became a starting center back, has helped turn around our defense and did all of this with no hype. Fantastic scouting by the front office.
NC: Rodney Wallace. Although I knew he had quality, I didn’t expect him to be such an impact player with his tireless, relentless physicality, wreaking havoc in the opponent’s box and his ability to get at the end of goals.
CM: Ben Sweat. Going into the season he was a castoff and I had zero expectation. Left Back was one position I thought “if we lost Matarrita, that’s going to be a massive problem.” But Sweat has fit in extremely well to this point. He plays a different style than Matarrita but he’s still effective.
MB: Ben Sweat – didn’t know anything about him when he was with the club in Arizona, and he keeps playing well.
RRJR: Ben Sweat. And he should be proud of the way he’s come back into this league. Grab an assist against the club that brought you in just to let you go, and get yourself a goal in a derby match? He has been a great backup player for Matarrita, and now may end up taking that number one left back role.
MA: Rodney Wallace; I knew he played with Portland and won a cup with them, but it’s not like NYCFC had signed Valeri from Portland, it was Rodney Wallace, a guy I think most people would consider a good MLS player but not as good as he’s been. I will admit, he gets tired in games and the Gold Cup will be tough on him, he could have benefited from the rest.
RO: Wallace. Didn’t know much about him prior to the season starting, but his work rate both offensively and defensively is massive for the team and I didn’t expect that from a winger
AK: Ben Sweat. When Ronald Matarrita got hurt, I was genuinely worried. We were losing a top 5 left-back in the league, and replacing him with a guy lacking any real MLS experience. He’s exceeded all expectations that I had and has created genuine competition for that spot when Matarrita returns. He’s even chipped in with some goals and assists.
JCR: I would like to talk Ring here but I’ll go with Maxi Moralez. Numerous reasons why but I’ll go with…He hustles and can be an overall threat. One more the opposition should look out for.
TCA: Maxi Moralez, it’s amazing how much he’s made this entire club tick moving forward.
TCC: Ring. Defensively he’s been easily the best in the midfield.
Looking forward, which match on the NYCFC schedule are you most excited about?
CP: The game in LA because I’ll be there and to see the difference in the team after what happened the last time NYCFC was there.
NC: The Toronto FC and Red Bull Matches. (If I have to choose, the Toronto FC meetings)
CM: The next one. Always the next one.
MB: August 6th vs. Red Bulls in Yankee Stadium. Should be a blood bath.
RRJR: I am going to try my best to get to NYC for the August 6 match against Red Bull. The LA match might also be good since they are not in good shape right now. But first place for me will be that Red Bull match at Yankee Stadium.
MA: These next three will be exciting and should tell the story of the season. Going 2-1 is good and means NYCFC will make a nice run in the playoffs. 1-1-1 means they’ll reach the playoffs but will not get far. 1-2 and they lose the first round game.
RO: Any match with NYRB I’m looking forward for, and nothing changes here. We play them the first game in August I believe and I look forward to it.
AK: Toronto FC. Let’s see how good this team really is.
JCR: NY hosting sllubdeR.
This is season two under Patrick Vieira, what are your thoughts on his performance as head coach?
CP: Player management – A+ \ Discipline – A \ Training – A \ Communication – A In game management – C+
NC: Outstanding. From bringing in so many improvements to the line-up in so many positions, improving the team each season he’s been in charge, to getting the most out of his players (including getting RJ Allen to turn around his season and developing younger players), seeing the fight these players have, and being brave enough to bench Pirlo when necessary. Vieira has proven to be one of the best coaches in MLS.
CM: I think in his first season he was dealt a mediocre hand and made it into something that extraordinarily overachieved. That team wasn’t deep, had a lot of mileage on it and frankly (pun intended) by the time the playoffs came along everyone was out of gas. This season, Vieira and Reyna have worked together to get younger and deeper and it’s paying dividends. I think now that Vieira has been allowed to build the team he wants, the sky is the limit. Wait until he gets to use Pirlo’s DP spot!
MB: I think he’s given the team a personality that is unique in MLS and that will be difficult to maintain when he leaves.
RRJR: He has learned so much while making this team his own. He is going to go on to great things as a manager. And City fans can say that he started his first team managing career here.
MA: His training is excellent. He is getting a lot out of the players. His game management is poor. But he has said as much, “…sometimes my decisions will work and sometimes they will not.” He’s been good, even great, but what he has to be is consistently great.
RO: I appreciate what he’s trying to do as a coach. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a whole squad to buy into your philosophy and go out there and do it – it seems the team trust his ideas; lots of pressing, high intensity.
AK: Mixed, but mostly positive. Vieira has given this team a clear identity and style of play – for better or worse. He has made some particularly good signings and developed some of our key players, but I do think some if his in-game coaching decisions, particularly his substitutions and squad rotations, could be much better. But, he deserves much credit for creating a strong and clear identity, system and foundation for this team moving forward. Our performance in the playoffs will ultimately be the deciding factor, as I think the team has as much talent as anyone in MLS.
JCR: I have no major issues with Coach, so far. Still working on the puzzle but it seems like the players believe in him. Still, it’s New York so…
TC: Outside of a couple of odd decisions he’s been consistent and strong willed (i.e. benching Pirlo for Herrera).
With the likes of Patrick Vieira and Yangel Herrera, are you concerned about our sister club relationship with Manchester City?
CP: Lampard fiasco aside, we’ve seen great things. Loaning players in positions we’ve drastically needed (2015 with Angelino and Facey, 2017 with Herrera). The ability to scout guys like Moralez, Ring and Chanot – is unrivaled in MLS. Players I’ve spoken to are happy to have had the opportunity to train in Manchester, too.
NC: No, instead I am encouraged by it. Besides the Lampard debacle, Manchester City’s relationship with NYCFC has only benefited New York City’s club. It’s shared ownership group City Football Group (CFG) is able to bring high-priced DPs, scout quality players from around the world and loan world-class talent in their age group like Yangel Herrera to New York City FC. Major advantage for New York’s club.
CM: Not really. The talent drop-off between MLS and the Premier League is still so large that it’ll be some time, I think, before talent goes directly from NYC to MCFC. When MLS as a league gets to that point, it will matter less.
RRJR: Not at all. It has benefited in so many ways. If they keep sending us quality staff like Vieira and quality loan players like Herrera, and the club benefits greatly from that, then I would honestly not mind NYCFC being called a farm team. City’s got better players, better staff, and will get better results. I won’t complain.
MA: No. CFG has done a satisfactory job in focusing on Manchester City as the primary club of the ownership group, but still allowed NYCFC to grow and advance.
RO: Well, from a Man City fan perspective not at all. I don’t see too many players making the move from NYCFC to City purely based on the quality of the MLS at the moment. From a NYCFC fans perspective I can see the concern of losing your best players to City, however, it’s likely that with every player you ‘lose’ to us, we can send 4-5 more players your way from our academy.
AK: No. This relationship has clearly been a huge benefit for the team. MLS isn’t close to being at the level yet where this could become a problem.
JCR: I don’t give much thought to this. Perhaps I have faith that whoever is in charge will have NYCFC’s best interest in mind.
TC: Not at all concerned. We’re glad that we can get the type of players on loan that we have been getting. They’ve been important to our success and hopefully we can keep some of these players for much longer.
Which current non-designated player would you give a DP contract if it meant keeping them on the team? (Not losing them to another team)
CP: Jack Harrison
NC: Alex Ring.
CM: I think a lot of my fellow contributors would say Alex Ring (and they’d be right) but I’m going to go a different direction. We’ve seen first hand how difficult times can be without a solid defense. Maxime Chanot is one of the best center backs on the continent, and he’d absolutely be worth keeping around. He’s young (for a center back), strong, and a leader in every sense of the word.
MB: Rodney Wallace or Jack Harrison
RRJR: Alexander Ring. He is 26, so fans of other clubs can’t say City’s an old club. And he is a BOSS and is definitely doing his job. If anything, he should at least get a raise next season.
MA: Jack Harrison, hands down has the highest ceiling. Alex Ring has been great, but he’s a DM that while dominant on defense has struggled to be a threat in attack. I would also throw an honorable mention to Chanot.
RO: Alex Ring.
AK: Alexander Ring. For reasons mentioned earlier.
JCR: Jack Harrison.
TC: Jack Harrison
Andrea Pirlo will be leaving NYCFC at the end of the year (we assume). What player or position should NYC focus on with that 3rd DP position?
CP: You build a team up the middle. Striker, midfield and defense. I think our midfield is good as is, barring a player leaving then I think we would spend it best in defense.
NC: If (BIG if), the entire rest of the roster stays next season, either an attacking central playmaker (especially if Moralez gets injured again) or a top-quality target forward that can complement David Villa or be a suitable replacement in the event he (God forbid) gets injured. However, if either Ring or Herrera leave, top priority would be to replace one of those players.
CM: It’s hard to target a Right Back with DP money in this league, as the “worth-it” factor is often measured by contributions in the attacking half. That said, Yangel Herrera is only here on loan. Should he leave, we will need to fill that spot with a similar player at the 8 (the box-to-box role). That’s where I would look.
MB: A young world class central defender would be great but I’d be stunned if it happened.
RRJR: I would say either striker, to partner with Villa and have one after Villa leaves (I will cry when that happens), or defense, because the club simply needs a good partner for Maxime Chanot.
MA: Replace Herrera long term with an equal quality DP.
RO: Possibly a centre back or goalkeeper to stop us leaking so many goals.
AK: I’d like to see the team sign another striker to play alongside Villa. It’d help take the burden off of Villa, who often likes to drift into wide areas and function as a playmaker more than a natural striker. This would give Villa the opportunity to drop a bit deeper at times, get on the ball and start attacks, while ensuring the team has a finisher roaming in and around the box. This move would help prepare the team for life after Villa, but will immediately make us a more balanced team.
JCR: Rather than dream of another offensive threat, I would be happy with a Chiellini, Puyol, Godin or Mascherano type player. A ” don’t even think about crossing this line, get that *#%+ out of here, score the occasional goal” defender.
TC: Spread the money across a backline. Possibly a creative mid or winger. Frankly we just need depth.
Where will NYCFC rank in the table at the end of this season and (if you having them making the playoffs) where will they end in the playoffs?
CP: Second overall. I’d be surprised if they didn’t win a series.
NC: If NYCFC remain healthy for the rest of the season (especially Herrera, Ring, Moralez and Villa), I foresee them finishing no lower than 2nd place in the East, and making, at least, the Eastern Conference finals in the playoffs. I think an MLS Cup berth is imminent this season IF they can remain healthy. #NostraChavez
CM: This is a really tough question to answer because we haven’t played either Toronto or Chicago yet. At the time of this writing, we have Toronto, Chicago, Toronto coming up. We need to win two of those three to have any chance of winning the East. I say we probably end up where we are now in third and playing either Columbus or – if they get their heads out of their asses and spend the Dax money – the Red Bulls. Beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Form wins tournaments.
MB: Third place in the east. They will advance out of the first round. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
RRJR: Dream scenario: Top of the east, top two in the league (either position’s fine with me), Eastern Conference playoff champion, MLS Cup champion. Ideal scenario: all of that except the Cup (it hurts saying that), but maybe do enough to just win the Supporter’s Shield.
MA: My gut says they stay third, but like I answered above, a good showing in the next three games means they win the single elimination game and win a series. Less than that and winning the first game is tough without adding more talent.
RO: I can see us making a deep playoff run, and wouldn’t be too surprised to see us in the finals providing we stay injury free.
AK: They’ll finish in the same position they are now: 3rd.
JCR: Nothing but lifting the Cup here. I can’t allow any other thought in my head. Champs!!
TCA: 3rd in table. Bounced out in the semi’s.
TCC: 4th or 5th in the table. Bounced out in the semi’s.”
Finally, with the MLS transfer window open do you expect NYCFC to make a move? Which player or what position should they target?
[Editor’s Note: Since this survey was sent out, Patrick Vieira has reversed his statements about not looking to make a move this summer.]
CP: Yes, I’d be surprised if they didn’t get an outside back in the next few weeks.
NC: Vieira has indicated that there will be no changes, but since it’s CFG, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new face or two this summer. A quality #10 who can pull strings in the absence of Moralez, or an even better option to Okoli in case Villa becomes unavailable would be useful.
CM: Reyna and Vieira had said they’re content to sit on their hands. The Matarrita injury may have altered that slightly, but probably not enough to sign an impact-guy. Also I don’t think they have a whole lot of money to splash around.
MB: If they do, they’ll bring in someone from outside North America. I’d be shocked if they made a move for anyone in MLS.
RRJR: At least two moves must be made: one for center back, and one for right back. I noticed that Alexander Callens only plays well when the team is doing well and is winning comfortably (he was cheesing mad hard after he made a good challenge when City was up 0-2 over Red Bull). And I am highly upset that Shannon Gomez was bought out of the loan contract just to go out on another loan.
MA: I think they sign two defenders, one CB and one versatile wing back.
RO: I don’t expect any transfers to be honest. If so, I’d like to see a right back added.
AK: I’d like to see the team sign another full-back and center back. The team needs another option other than Frédéric Brillant, who has looked shaky more often than not this season. Another full-back to backup Ethan White and Ben Sweat would be ideal.
JCR: See my answer above regarding my desire for a stronger defense. I am not that informed to know who is potentially available but if we work on it, maybe we don’t need any moves right now.
TC: This window in order to replace Mattarita, if financially possible. They got rid of Shannon Gomez so I’m assuming they’ll have a replacement coming in soon.
NYCFC Nation would like to thank everyone who contributed to our survey. You can follow everyone at the following places: