New York City FC
- New York City FC
- Eastern Conference
- Home: Yankee Stadium
New York City FC was an unmitigated success in its inaugural Major League Soccer season.
Off the field, that is.
The club, which sold 20,000 season tickets, averaged more than 29,000 fans per game at Yankee Stadium. No team had a larger road draw, averaging more than 25,000 away from home.
Merchandise sales were also through the roof. NYCFC had four of the top 10 best-selling MLS jerseys based on overall retail sales of adidas MLS jerseys on MLSstore.com. And the club had the biggest single-game retail sales in league history at their historic home opener, in which every scarf was sold.
On the field, though, was a different story.
NYCFC struggled with an uneven roster that was overhauled during the summer transfer window and ultimately failed in its goal of making the MLS Cup playoffs.
That ultimately proved costly for Jason Kreis, who was replaced by French legend Patrick Vieira during the offseason. The former Manchester City midfielder is now charged with making sure the club's play on the field is what garners headlines in 2016.
The team’s three Designated Players – David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard – have been together from the start of preseason, in contrast to last year. Vieira has changed the formation, scrapping last year’s 4-5-1 in favor of a 4-3-3 to give Villa more options in the attacking third.
NYCFC conceded 58 goals a year ago, tied for worst in MLS, and they addressed their defensive shortcomings in the offseason. The club acquired French center back Frederic Brillant and Costa Rican left back Ronald Matarrita, who should both be in the starting XI, as well as Ethan White and Diego Martinez.
There are still questions, though. The crowded midfield, which also includes Mix Diskerud, Kwadwo Poku, Tommy McNamara and newly signed Federico Bravo, isn’t any less crowded, with only three spots to choose from.
Armchair Analyst's Take
Vieira says he is going to play Pirlo as a lone No. 6. This seems like slow suicide and a recipe for an ad hoc in-season adjustment to both the formation and tactical bent of the team.
Here is the problem with that idea: There are lots and lots of teams in MLS that love to counterattack. This isn’t to say that they’re primarily counterattacking teams, but almost everybody in the league looks more comfortable on the run than they are setting up shop in the final third and stringing together a series of intricate cuts, runs, touches and passes.
So if NYCFC are going to be a high-pressure, high-possession team, they are going to need to be really good at preventing counterattacking opportunities. However, high-pressure, high-possession teams are the ones that are most susceptible to counters. Thus you see young(ish), rangy, energetic d-mids like Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City) and Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls) on those types of squads, and even those guys get lots of help from the Roger Espinozas and Felipes of the world. Try as I might, I don’t see that same structure in the Bronx.
Key Offseason Transactions
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Player to Watch: Kwadwo Poku
Here's all you need to know about Poku: Vieira thinks he can be better than in his breakthrough 2015 season and Poku's teammate, Villa, thinks "he will be incredible in the future."
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Saunders -- Iraola, Brillant, Mena, Matarrita -- Pirlo, Bravo, Lampard -- Shelton, Villa, McNamara
Pirlo and Lampard will both benefit from the newly introduced "passes completed" point system and both are available for $10m. Not cheap, but not unreasonable considering they’ll be providing service to Golden Boot candidate David Villa.
- Khiry Shelton
- Kwadwo Poku
- Jack Harrison