Jason Kreis with New York City FC
Courtesy of NYCFC

New York City FC piecing together roster-building strategy ahead of Wednesday's Expansion Draft

NEW YORK – Trying to prepare for the MLS Expansion Draft is like piecing together a puzzle for New York City FC.

A really, really big puzzle with multiple moving parts.

“We spent literally this entire week in all-day meetings trying to figure out who we think is going to be available and how they’re going to fit in with the rest of the group and the salary cap,” NYCFC coach Jason Kreis said. “It’s really, really difficult. It’s like trying to put a million-piece puzzle together.”

The draft itself, which will take place Wednesday, is “hugely important,” according to Kreis, because the club has placed a priority on filling its roster with players who have MLS experience.

“They know how the league works, the rhythm of the games, the travel,” NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. “From day one, that was the conversation we had: How can we get MLS experienced guys into the team, because that’s where we feel we’ll be successful, not just the DPs.”

Of course, not knowing who is being made available in the draft has made for some interesting war-room conversations.

“There’s been a lot of mock drafts in our room,” Reyna said. “We’re playing the guessing game a bit on who teams are going to protect. We have a pretty good idea, but we don’t know exactly.”

Reyna said he hopes to be able to keep between five to seven players selected in the expansion draft. However, adding to the intrigue is that it’s a shared expansion draft with Orlando City. That further complicates an already-challenging process.

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“I think all of us have a general feeling of which players are the most important to their teams and we just project who they would protect,” Kreis said. “It’s always going to come from the outside looking in.”

Unlike other MLS teams that add Designated Players to an already-established roster, NYCFC are building their squad with superstars David Villa and Frank Lampard as two of their first six players.

However, building a roster from scratch hasn’t been the most pleasant experience for Kreis.

“Right now it feels like torture,” Kreis said. “But come January 24, when we have the whole group together and we’re on the soccer field and I’m a soccer coach again, I’m going to be extremely happy that we were able to do it.”