New York City FC land much-needed defensive help with signings of Andoni Iraola, Angelino

NEW YORK – New York City FC have made plenty of news with their big name acquisitions this summer. But coming in under the radar, some defensive help is also on the way.

Unveiled to the media on Tuesday afternoon – along with English legend Frank Lampard – Spanish fullbacks Andoni Iraola and Angelino have been brought in to bolster a NYCFC defense that has been notoriously thin at times this season. With these additions, head coach Jason Kreis is hoping to foster some more competition within his squad to ultimately raise the level of play.

“We’ve been through some stretches where we’ve had hardly any defenders,” Kreis said. “We’ve had to play Pablo Alvarez at right back this season. Last game we had zero defenders [on the bench.] We had four guys that were healthy enough to play and available, and we had no other options. So for me, we need more defenders and we need more competition within the group. That’s what the truly best teams have, they have competition week in and week out for who will start and who will make the 18.”

Bringing veteran experience and youthful promise, Iraola and Angelino come to MLS at very different points in the respective careers.

At 33, Iraola will be plying his trade outside of his native Spain for the first time after spending the better part of 15 years with La Liga’s Athletic Bilbao. Aware of the stigma surrounding MLS, Iraola insists that he is not underestimating the level of play throughout the league.

“If you watch it from the outside, I think the level of the league is actually higher than many people think,” Iraola said through a translator. “The fact that there are veteran players around at the level of [Frank] Lampard and [David] Villa, I don’t think anyone can doubt the level of play they will provide.”

For the 18-year-old Manchester City product Angelino, the move to NYCFC provides an opportunity to play with some of legends of the game. At such a young age, Angelino made no qualms about his ambitions to make an impression back in England.

“I’ve come here, and I have the chance to play with Iraola, Villa, Lampard, and now [Andrea] Pirlo has come in as well,” Angelino said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. I can learn a lot from these guys, they’ve played in a lot of games. Now that I’ve got this chance, I need to take it to improve and learn loads of things from them. I need to make myself big and get a good name here, then go back to Manchester to have the chance play first team. We’ll see what the future has [in store] for me.”