When NYCFC came into the season, they were surrounded with question marks. How would Frank Lampard do after his disastrous first season with the club? How would the back line fare? Was the team getting too old? Was Jack Harrison worth trading for? And the most prevalent of them all: How would Patrick Vieira fare in his first season as the head coach of a first team? However, all these questions were answered. Patrick Vieira turned out to be a fantastic head coach. With all these questions, they advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals where their season came to an end via a 7-0 aggregate loss to Toronto FC.
New York City FC 2016 Season Review
NYCFC had a great season. They finished second in the Eastern Conference with 54 points, three behind the New York Red Bulls. They also scored the most goals, 62, beating the Red Bulls by one goal. However, they also let in the most goals of any playoff team, 57. Clearly, the defense will need some work in the off-season.
It wouldn’t a season in pro sports without some highs and lows. Everyone knows the low: the 7-0 hammering by the Red Bulls May 21st. Another low was Mix Diskerud‘s failure to break into the squad. However, there were many highs this season, the biggest of which was coming back against the Red Bulls July 3rd and beating them 2-0. This was the first time NYCFC beat their Hudson River rivals and it showed this is not a one way rivalry. Other highs were the improving play at home, the new additions, the revitalization of Tommy McNamara, and the emergence of Khiry Shelton. Vieira also did a great job of keeping the older members of the squad, Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, and Andoni Iraola healthy and playing well.
What Went Right
You can’t talk about what went right with the NYCFC without talking about the attack. NYCFC was able to rotate their wingers. They also somehow managed to survive with only one true forward, David Villa, on the roster after Patrick Mullins was traded away to DC United in the summer. Their ability to score goals propelled them to a second place finish.
The midfield was also revolutionized. In contrast to Jason Kreis, Vieira opted to shift to a three man midfield. First, Iraola was shifted to defensive mid. Then, Pirlo was shifted higher up the field, while still playing a more defensive role. Finally, Frank Lampard moved into an advanced midfield role so he could make runs off the forwards. Also, McNamara was shifted to the front line.
What Went Wrong
What went wrong: the defense. The back line conceded the most goals out of any playoff team. However, the full backs weren’t bad at pushing forward into the attack. Ronald Matarrita and RJ Allen were two of the best fullbacks in MLS, with Matarrita making an appearance on the WhoScored.com MLS team of the year. In contrast to the fullbacks, the center backs were more shaky. The main problem was that there was no continuity in the back. Although Maxime Chanot was a lone bright spot after arriving mid season. Hopefully, he will be able to become a regular starter in 2017
NYCFC’s off-season is wide open. The plan depends on who is selected in the expansion draft. Right now, Frank Lampard, Thomas McNamara, Eirik Johansen, Mehdi Ballouchy, RJ Allen, Tony Taylor, and Andre Rawls have contracts that are set to expire. Also, Federico Bravo, Steven Mendoza, and Shannon Gomez have loans expiring. Bravo and Gomez both have buying options, while Mendoza will most likely be too costly to retain. But if that isn’t the case, they should definitely try to retain him.
Players to Retain: Thomas McNamara, Eirik Johansen, RJ Allen, Tony Taylor, and Andre Rawls
Players to Buy from Loan: Federico Bravo and Shannon Gomez
Players to let go: Frank Lampard and Mehdi Ballouchy
NYCFC will have one available DP spot. Ideally, they will fill that slot with a young center back and midfielder. In the draft, they should look for a midfielder first, then a center back. Also, they need to figure out what to do with Mix Diskerud, as his $750,000 salary is too high for someone not even making the 18. Overall, their offseason plan will hinge on who gets taken in the expansion draft and how they handle the empty DP slot.