For the first time in their history, New York City FC head into a season without David Villa. The club jumped into that new era with both feet on Monday, announcing the Designated Player signing of Romanian attacker Alexandru Mitrita. It is reported to an $8.5 million transfer fee by Sam Stejskal, one of the biggest transfer fee purchases in league history.
A quick scouting report on Mitrita, based on the games I’ve gone back to watch and the accumulation of film I’ve seen:
- He’s explosive, and uses his acceleration and low center of gravity to beat defenders over 7-10 yards
- He has a dangerous right foot, and likes to cut from left to right and either look to shoot or pass
- When he chooses to pass, he likes to play balls across his hips that splits the defense
- He uses the threat of going toward his right to dribble to his left; he dips his right shoulder and drags the ball back to his left, similar to what we’ve seen from Sebastian Giovinco in the past
- He’s excellent at beating defenders to the endline and getting passes across the face of the goal (either chipped or on the ground)
- He’s very dangerous when he gets the ball between the lines and runs at defenders
- He’s not going to dominate the action of a game; he’s primarily a threat in the final third
- He takes set pieces, including corners, free kicks and penalty kicks.
With Mitrita’s arrival, the attention turns to head coach Dome Torrent. How will the Spaniard deploy his new record signing?
It was assumed that the team would use the money that Villa vacated to sign a center forward. Mitrita, however, has played primarily on the left wing for his Romanian club, Universitatea Craiova.
In the press release, Torrent described Mitrita as a, “dynamic and versatile attacking option who can play in many systems … Alexandru has had a great year in Romania where he’s scored lots of goals [12 goals and 4 assists in 16 games this season] and has been very dangerous in the attacking play and in 1v1 situations.”
Mitrita joins an attacking group consisting of Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jonathan Lewis and Valentin Castellanos. You’ll notice plenty of talent, but not a single natural center forward in the group.
Two options, then:
- NYCFC go out and sign a starting central striker. Mitrita plays on the left, Moralez plays behind the forward, and Medina, Tajouri-Shradi, and Lewis fight for the spot on the right. It wouldn’t be totally unheard-of in today’s MLS for players like Medina and Tajouri-Shradi to find themselves on the bench.
- NYCFC play an untraditional formation (though becoming increasing normal around the world) without a traditional center forward. It would both fit the current personnel and continue the approach Torrent used when Villa wasn’t available in 2018. Moralez or Medina played as his highest attackers, often checking back toward the ball, and Rodney Wallace or Tajouri-Shradi would provide the runs behind the defense.
The starting lineup might look something like:
Mitrita would have the freedom to go where he wants, specifically dropping between the lines, and Tajouri-Shradi would act as the de facto center striker with his direct runs toward goal. It’s not the replacement people expected, but it’s one that could make for a dynamic, devastating attack.