It doesn't matter how many midsummer MLS games in Florida, Texas or Southern California Maxime Chanot has played in since arriving at NYCFC during the 2016 season, you never quite get used to the heat.
Chanot is back with his teammates for preseason as they prepare for 2021, currently down in Florida where the relentless sun feels bright as ever. He's just happy to be back with the squad after a long winter, in which the team last played in MLS in November then wrapped up one Concacaf Champions League match in December.
Sweating, working and focused on 2021 as Chanot remains one of the club's longest-serving members.
“I’ve been here for a long time, this is going to be my sixth season," Chanot said. "I’ve seen a lot with this club."
NYCFC are at the beginning of a new cycle, Chanot reckons, with head coach Ronny Deila entering his second season with the club. His early focus in year one was laying down a new culture, as well as tactics, as NYCFC ultimately climbed to fifth in the Eastern Conference in the truncated 2020 campaign, their fifth consecutive season making the playoffs, though coming after four straight top-three finishes.
Additions have been slow this winter, something true among most MLS clubs. NYCFC still have two open Designated Player spots as well as a boatload of General Allocation Money, generated by trades of Alex Ring and Ronald Matarrita, as well as Joe Scally's transfer to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Consternation among fans has risen while Deila himself said, straight up, the club need more players. Chanot isn't worried.
“We lost important players, like Alex Ring and Matarrita, but every year we lose important players," Chanot said. "Every season we sell players, it’s part of the identity of the club. But every year, we bring new players to fill the gap. I’m not worried at all. I trust the club, we have enough quality in the squad already. Of course, a team that wants to be champions always needs quality players, but I think the squad we have plus a few additions will help the club reach our objective of getting a trophy."
The likes of David Villa, Jack Harrison, Alexandru Mitrita and Yangel Herrera have all left the club in recent years, though City have kept churning forward.
“I believe we’ll have a good season, we have everything," Chanot said. "We have the staff, the front office, a core of players who have been here several years. I really trust this club, this project.”
Chanot will be key. He started all but six of NYCFC's matches over the last two seasons, anchoring a defense that has been among the league's stingiest units over that time. His influence and importance in the locker room only grows as the years go by as well, especially with last year's captain, Ring, leaving.
“Leadership has always been part of my personality, I was captain of my club in Belgium," Chanot said. "Now that I’m one of the oldest at the club, it’s important for me to step forward as a leader. Even though Alex was the captain, we always had player councils. Me, Alex, Sean [Johnson], Anton [Tinnerholm] and Maxi [Moralez]. We all understand how important it is to show the right example. Even though Alex left the club, just like David Villa left the club, we all know how important it is.”
Perhaps the club's first-ever trophy will follow.
“As every year, a club like NYCFC is supposed to be top three of the conference," Chanot said. "That’s always the target, our identity is to be a top team. Unfortunately we haven’t reached a trophy, but I believe we deserve a trophy. The target is to lift a trophy.”