But that’s where the comparisons with David Villa end.
Mitrita, said NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent, is not the like-for-like replacement for Villa, whose success for NYCFC also extended beyond the pitch.
“I say many times it’s not easy to replace a player like David Villa,” Torrent said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “He has everything, you know. He has [the] name in the soccer, he has performance, he has goals. It’s not about who replaces David. It’s not about that.”
Mitrita, who signed a multi-year contract on Feb. 4 on a transfer from Universitatea Craiova, brings different qualities to a team that could look vastly different — and Torrent believes possibly better — in 2019.
“Mitrita can play really well. He has the quality to play in the left side, the No. 10, even the false nine because he has quality to play with us. He scored many goals last year for Craiova. The most important thing for us is we have a new player who has quality to play and join with Maxi [Moralez] and these kind of players."
While Mitrita has been compared to recently-departed Toronto star Sebastian Giovinco because of his diminutive stature and game-changing skills, Torrent thinks he more resembles FC Barcelona's versatile attacker Philippe Coutinho, and his game isn't in the mold of Villa's.
“He’s another DP, he’s different as a DP, yes? David played as a striker and this player can play in different positions in our team,” Torrent said.
Torrent had said it will take several players to replace Villa’s on-field production, and on Thursday confirmed the club is close to signing another striker, though didn’t go into details about the target.
“We are looking for a striker and I expect in three or four days we find the right striker,” Torrent said. “Everybody knows we need something in our forwards. [Valentin Castellanos] can play like a striker, even Jesus [Medina]. But it’s not the typical striker, you know. It’s better for us when we have two strikers, different strikers, different qualities. OK, I’m waiting in two or three days maybe we have the solution.”
While he’s played with a false nine in the preseason with Castellanos and Medina, Torrent said the jury is still out on how NYCFC will play when the season starts because his team isn’t complete yet. Torrent generally prefers a 4-3-3 formation, but acknowledges it’s likely his system will match the personnel.
“In the end it depends if we’re able to sign the right player, the new striker,” Torrent said. “When we finish the signing, when we have the whole team, I need to think about the best way to play.”
Regardless, Torrent, who is the midst of his first preseason after taking over for Patrick Vieira midway through last season, is confident NYCFC is an improved team this year.
“Right now we are in the right way to play much better because I’m very happy in the preseason with the whole team because they understand exactly what I expect about them. … In this moment, my feeling is we are a strong team, maybe we have a better team than last year,” Torrent said. “That is my feeling right now.”