And then there were two. David Villa and Thomas MacNamara are the only ones left who lined up in New York City Football Club’s inaugural season. Patrick Vieira has completely redesigned the team in his image and designed it to play his style. Since losing to Columbus in MLS playoffs New York City Football Club has undergone a slew of changes. Andrea Pirlo has retired and NYCFC replaced him with a young talent on the rise as their third Designated Player. This is a new young team with pace and creativity at all positions. If all goes well, 2018 could be a break out year for the club.
Jesus Medina is a 20 year old Paraguayan midfielder with pace, a strong left foot and a real sense of creativity on the ball. He can score or set up his teammates and is a set piece specialist. He can play a true number ten or a false nine and Patrick Vieira will have to decide on his best position. He is a risk as their third DP but if he pays off NYCFC will have a young, fast and tricky player who will fit right into Vieira’s style of play. One question is what happen to Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison with the addition of Medina. Harrison and Medina both are most effective playing from the right side and will most likely be given the freedom to switch sides at will with Wallace coming off the bench as a backup or when the team needs a more physical presence on the wing.
Medina is not the only change to the roster. NYCFC also brought in Swedish international, Anton Tinnerholm, who actually served as the country’s captain in their last match. He is the defensive player of the year in the Swedish league and has won several league titles with Malmo. He is an attacking fullback also with pace and creativity. His winning mentality bring experience but, at the same time, he is only 27,so he is still in his prime physically.
The team also bolstered the back line by bringing in Saad Abdul-Salaam from Kansas City, trading away Khiry Shelton in the deal. Salaam is 26 and will serve as a capable back up to Tinnerholm on the right side. backup keeper, Erik Johanson also announced his intention to leave the club and so Brad Stuver was brought in from Columbus to fill the spot.
R J Allen, Pirlo, Shelton, Sean Okoli, Frederic Brillant are all gone, traded away or let go along with a slew of others. The team will have to focus on finding a back up centerback and a back up forward as those positions lack roster depth. Work is still to be done and NYCFC still have plenty of roster spots to fill before they have two warm up friendlies in February against LA Galaxy and Atletico de San Luis. Those games will be the first time fans get to see Vieira’s new starting eleven. This year there are seven games that NYCFC will be at risk of having players gone for the World Cup. Depth is an issue and Claudio Reyna will have to address that in the coming months.
There is still time, and, more than ever before, the team is built for speed and an attacking style of play that should be very entertaining to watch. If the club and players can gel before the start of MLS regular season in March. NYCFC should push Toronto for a top spot in the league. 2018 should be a great one for the club and all eyes will be on the youngster, Medina, as he lines up next to the experience of David Villa up front. No doubt NYCFC will be one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the league but will they do enough in the remaining months to bolster their defense and cause opposing teams problems at all fronts? Will they add enough depth and find players like Ben Sweat who can step in and perform well when the starter goes down with injury or is away on international duty? Time will tell but for right now the work already done is pretty exciting.