The NYCFC Youth Revolution

Via Last Word on Soccer, by Noah Sobel-Pressman

This season was a complete turnaround for NYCFC compared to their inaugural campaign. There are a variety of reasons for the turn around, but the main reason for the turn around is the increase in minutes for youth players. (Youth players are classified by MLS standards as Under-24)

As highlighted by the table, in every measure statistic examined, the under-24s output increased. Under-24 players had over 50% of the assists this year! The main reason for these increases is due to the increase in key minutes played by three players in that age category: Jack Harrison, Khiry Shelton, and Ronald Matarrita. Two of the players were new additions, but Shelton had a great leap forward this season.

The NYCFC Youth Revolution

Khiry Shelton

Shelton saw sporadic playing time last year, but showed flashes of why NYCFC took him second in the MLS SuperDraft. This year, Shelton started off with a bang, recording an assist and a goal in the first game against the Chicago Fire. From the beginning of July to the beginning of September, Shelton never featured, but he fought for his place in the team and played a key role down the stretch.

Shelton appeared in 22 games scoring four goals and recording nine assists. He had the most assists for an Under-24 player and second most of any player on the team, only to Il Maestro (Andrea Pirlo). With regard to goals, Shelton was tied for fifth most on the team and second among U-24 players

However, when examined on a per 90 basis, Shelton was significantly better than Harrison. Shelton had .31 goals/90 and .7 assists/90. In comparison, Harrison had .22 goals/90 and .4 assists/90. However, Steven Mendoza had .4 goals/90, but only .07 assists/90. While he may have been underrated and not as flashy, Shelton might have been the young player of the year for NYCFC offensively.

Ronald Matarrita

Ronald Matarrita went from being a relatively unknown Costa Rican player to being wanted by Borussia Dortmund. He was NYCFC’s best defender, and even made the Best XI of many websites. His only flaw was when he was high up the field and the other team got a counter, he would struggle to track back. However, another year under Patrick Vieira will certainly improve his game.

Defensively, Matarrita was everywhere. He had 4.2 tackles/90, 2.9 interceptions/90, 1.9 clearances/90. On offense, he also chipped in with five assists or .23 assists/90. Without Matarrita, NYCFC couldn’t have done as well as they did this season. He will be a key piece going forward for next season.

Jack Harrison

On draft day, NYCFC made a blockbuster trade to acquire Jack Harrison with the first pick. Harrison missed the first couple of months with injuries, but once he got to full health he justified that number one draft pick. He even was nominated for rookie of the year, ultimately losing to Jordan Morris of the MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders.

Harrison ended up scoring four goals and seven assists (.23 goals/90, .4 assists/90). He even had a goal nominated for goal of the year. Clearly, he was a great pick up this off season. At only 19 years of age, he will have plenty of time to improve his game.