*Greetings fellow New York City FC Fans. My name is Aaron, I am NYC based photographer, and AVID NYCFC fan. An opinionated one at that. You can find some of said opinions on the NYCFC Podcast hosted by Andres Soto. Personally, I enjoy discourse and hypotheticals (hence this article) and I hope you do too. So without further ado, here we go!*
This year we started 2019 they way we ended 2018 last year, under performing and escaping with draws in games that should have been wins. Fans were calling for Head Coach Domènec Torrent’s firing, players like Jesus Medina, Maxime Chanot, David Villa etc. were being scrutinized (both fairly and unfairly) and fans were vividly informing NYCFC and City Football Group that such poor results were not to the standard that we – the fans – demand in turn for our support.
Then, when top CFG Executive Brian Marwood visited NYCFC and his seat was hottest, Dome figured it out. Those draws started to turn to wins and while not as electrifying as Patrick Vieria’s NYCFC, we regained some form of fluidity and confidence. We then rose up in the East to gain several club milestones. Highest points total in the regular season, most regular season wins, first CONCACAF Champions League berth, most goals in a season and the farthest the team has reached in the US Open Cup. By golly was it electrifying! Finally, some vindication for the years of heartache and wanting. We came into the playoffs riding high and then BOOM! It all came crashing down. All undone by two disastrous and rudimentary errors by two of our best defenders (and arguably top 10 in each of their positions).
But now that’s in the past and we can only look forward. Regardless of who our coach is in 2020 or what happens with the Collective Bargaining Agreement this winter, we can acknowledge that this 2019 team was the best and greatest NYCFC team we’ve ever had. However we need to improve even more next year. We’ve seen teams burn out when competing in multiple competitions (CCL/Leagues Cup, MLS, US Open Cup, Canadian Championship, Campeones Cup). With all of these additional games, travel for CCL, and losing players during International breaks, depth is extremely important.
Before we move forward, let’s assess areas of need.
Striker: We need a pure #9. Heber Araujo dos Santos is great, his ability to find space and receive the ball to allow the rest of the team to build in the attack is great and he’s a top 5 finisher in MLS, but he’s often injured. Our other “striker” Valentin Castellanos is a fantastic finisher but lacks the movement and hold up play that a traditional #9 offers.
Winger: Our winger corps is ‘Design by Committee’. We have excellent players who have made major contributions. Though, most are young, and thus inconsistent. We lost talent in trading Jonathan Lewis, we gained Gary Mackay-Steven who has 1v1 skills but hasn’t shown much else, and Jesus Medina hasn’t played to his early-2018 form and was recently left unprotected by NYCFC in the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft. It might be time for reinforcements.
Midfield: We have a pretty solid midfield, one of the best if I say so myself, but we do lack a back up “#10” (playmaker) who can pull the strings when Maxi Moralez is unavailable. And, honestly, I feel like we can improve over Ebenezer Ofori ($340k salary) and Juan Pablo Torres (who’s played like once for us).
Defense & GK: Anton “Tinnerboom” is a top 5 right back in MLS (even if the pundits refuse to acknowledge it), Eric Miller and Ben Sweat are gone and we pray that Joseph Scally takes a large next step into the first team before he leaves for Germany. Ronald Matarrita is still a top 10 left back despite #TheMistake. I’m also okay with keeping Tony Rocha. Any center back reinforcements will come from outside of the league, and our goal keeping corps don’t need any help.
As seen with the majority of NYCFC player signings most of the new players being added to the 2020 roster will most likely come from outside MLS. It could be overseas like Alexandru Mitria and Keaton Parks, from the USL like Sebastian Ibeagha, or our own academy. I hope, like Justin Haak.
With that in mind, here are 10 **REALISTIC** MLS players I’d love to see don an NYCFC Jersey in 2020
From Front to Back
1. Romain Alessandrini: Winger – LA Galaxy
Yes, the third LA Galaxy Designated Player missed almost all of 2019 with a knee injury and is making $1.6 million a year. One would be surprised to see him on this list. However, in his first two seasons Romain averaged 12 goals and 10.5 assists. He is getting older and coming off an injury plagued season, so we might just be able to get him on a TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) deal. His versatility on either wing would allow him to strengthen our Winger core alongside Mitri, Taty, & Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
2. Juan Agudelo: Forward – New England Revolution
At the tender age of 26, Agudelo is an MLS Veteran capable of playing winger or striker. Making approximately $500k, he isn’t too expensive and while his stats aren’t shiny, he does great hold up work, pressing, and possesses softer feet than people would expect. NYC lacks a true #9 and aerial threat and Agudelo has the capability of executing both. He would be able to come off the bench or provide cover for any Heber injury.
3. Dom Dwyer: Forward – Orlando City SC
Dom, like almost every single OCSC player, has had a rough go of it down in central Florida. Poor form, tactical differences and injuries has seen Dom play at a fraction of what made him a star with Sporting Kansas City. Also a pure #9, Dom would be a great addition to NYC and form an excellent pairing with either Heber and/or Taty. Yes his salary is $1.3 million but age and recent poor form should bring that number down making him a TAM player.
4. CJ Sapong: Forward – Chicago Fire
Long underrated Sapong is another pure #9 who’s movements create space for others and is an aerial threat. Not to mention his hold up play is rather good and he can actually finish pretty well. And get this…his 2019 salary was only $475k! Can someone say STEAL?! He would be a great addition to the team.
5. Kellyn Acosta: Midfield – Colorado Rapids
This one wouldn’t be likely as Acosta has etched a nice role in the center of the Rapids midfield. However, the fringe United States Men’s National Team player would be worth shedding a little TAM or International spot (especially if we allow Ofori to leave). He is a little costly, at $550k, but he is a pure #8, something we’ve lacked since Yangel Herrera left and a sturdy #6, a position Acosta played for years with FC Dallas. Not to mention with his MLS and USMNT experience Acosta would be a great leader and veteran mentor to the younger players from the United Sates.
6. Sacha Kljestan: Midfield – Orlando City SC
I know! He’s a former New York Red Bull and hated among our ranks. However, Sacha offers plenty of soccer knowledge having played in MLS and Belgium. Plus he would not be our #1 guy. His role would be complementary to Maxi as an additional play maker in the middle of the park. The same as Dom, age and recent poor form in Orlando should make Sacha’s price tag drop WAAY down (but to his defense, everybody in Orlando was meh). I’d hope. I’m just saying he could be our Lee Ngyuen.
7. Dax McCarty: Midfield – Nashville FC
Yes, he is the third former Red Bull (Agudelo and Klijstan being 1 and 2) on this list but, Dax has every reason to hate them as much as we do. I mean who trades a guy the day after his wedding, smh. He is still one of the best central defensive midfielder’s in MLS, has great passing range, an excellent motor and is a great leader! He has long been one of the smartest players in MLS, the Gold Cup winner earns roughly $700k, and is worth every penny. He and Ring could form a defensive midfield pair that doesn’t allow teams anywhere near the back line, and has the passing range to ping balls from the middle of the park better than anyone in our midfield not named Maxi.
*Note: Dax was recently traded to Nashville FC, but come on, it’s MLS. Players can be traded for again, just ask Sean Johnson*
8. Tommy McNamara: Midfield – Houston Dynamo
BRING T-MAC HOME!! Again, one of the smartest players in MLS, the underrated Tommy Mac is not the fastest, but his decision making and 30 yard curlers more than make up for it. He’s relatively inexpensive at $165k. And if we are being honest, I’d love to see Tmac coaching our youth team at some point. So let’s get him a head start by guiding the likes of Haak, James Sands, and Scally as an OG NYCFC member.
9. Darlington Nagbe: Midfield – Columbus Crew
I really don’t think I need to sell anyone on Nags. A US International and one of the most technically skilled players in the league, Nagbe draws fouls like no ones business and has improved defensively over the last two seasons. Against teams who like to pack it in defensively and not let us through (think Toronto FC and New England Revolution), having a player like Darlington next to Maxi would allow us to keep possession and move in those limited tight spaces that teams like TFC, NER, and RBNY give us as they congest the midfield.
*Just traded for 1+Million in TAM, but a Guy can dream right?*
10. Luciano Acosta: Midfield – DC United
Luciano has had a miserable 2019 with only 6 Goals and 2 Assists. After the transfer to PSG failed in January, he did not play with the same gusto as he did in 2018 where he boasted 10 Goals and 17 Assists. However, sometimes a change in scenery can be a great course corrector and sharing the midfield duties with Maxi (a fellow Argentine) may be just what the doctor prescribed. At only $600k he is well worth his price tag and would help us unlock compact defenses. I mean just picture the majesty of 1-2 combos between Lucho, Maxi, Mitri, & Heber. #GLORIOUS.
Now I know what you’re saying. WHY NO DEFENDERS? Well first and foremost our back line is actually really solid and I don’t see any *reasonable* prospects or improvement. I would like to see us add some depth by either getting another HGP on the roster or another Ibeagha level signing from the USL. Same thing goes for Goalkeeping. Sean Johnson is the best GK on the team and a top 10 GK in the league.
I know many will disagree with this list and unfortunately we can not bring every player on board, but all of these players listed would definitely help strengthen the squad as we make a push, I hope, for multiple trophies. We have a shot at winning the CCL, USOC, Supporters Shield, and MLS Cup next year and already have a team that can challenge for each. Why not shoot for the stars and try to win them all!