Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Another year, another impressive regular season, another heartless playoff performance resulting in an early exit. After it all, a once frustrated fanbase may just be happy this season has finally concluded. Injuries, transfers and a whole pandemic signifies another disappointment of a season for NYCFC.
With the offseason brings room for improvement. While New York City FC contains one of the more quality XI’s in the league, there are still improvements to be made.
For City to finally burst the postseason bubble, these transfers are a must for Ronny Delia’s second season.
When your most capable box-to-box midfielder needs to spend time at left-wing, maybe a structural change needs to be made. While the Alex “Wing” experience was a fun one — and nearly single-handedly revived NYCFC’s attack — a natural winger with MLS ability must be at the top of Deila’s January bucket list. Considering Deila’s preferred 4-3-3 was a main stead for City all season, it would make sense to have more than two natural wingers on the team.
Those natural wingers, Jesus Medina or Ishmael Tajouri-Shradi, both showed competency at the right-wing spot. This goes especially for Medina, who’s hefty price tag as a DP cast a slightly better light with his increased comfort in the final third.
The left side of the attack was occupied by a carousel of players, even Ronald Matarrita got a shout up top. Toward the end of the season, it was Gary Mackay-Stevens given the reins on the left. To say it nicely, Mackay-Stevens is proof of the major talent gap between the Scottish league and MLS. A regular starter known for his skills on the ball at Aberdeen, Mackay-Stevens never showed his quality for the pigeons. While Deila’s constant rotation of Stevens in and out of the squad may be to blame, year two proved that he just doesn’t have the quality to be a consistent starter at this level.
If City decides to continue the Jesus Medina experience — something still up in the air — then a quality left winger must be the priority in January.
Something of a case for Robin Lod as an inverted winger?
— Eli Hoff (@byEliHoff) November 23, 2020
Veteran No. 9
The injury bug hit no one harder than Heber this campaign, with a torn ligament sidelining the Brazilian No. 9 for most of the season. But prior to the injury, Heber struggled in league play, with only one goal in 10 league matches.
His replacement and fellow South American Tati Castellanos was a similar story. Though his form picked up late, his 12 match goal drought during the season signals an inconsistency not seen with NYCFC No. 9’s of old.
While Tati is only 22, and Heber has the 15 goal season in 2019 to rebuttal, the need for a super-sub up top appears prevalent for the team. An underrated aspect of the Villa era was the prevalence of experienced strikers off the bench that could net a winner. Now Khiry Shelton and Patrick Mullens are gone with still no real replacement.
Only a veteran MLS striker can suitably fill this need, here are the candidates.
Attacking Midfield depth
The final need also comes from an attacking mindset. This may come from a satirical point of view, consider The Pigeons were a solid seventh in goals scored this year (37.) They were especially clinical towards the end of their campaign, with nine goals in their final two regular-season matches.
But more meets the eye in terms of attacking creativity. NYCFC was held to one goal or fewer in 11/13 matches Maxi Moralez didn’t play. The need for creativity in midfield was further halted with the injuries of Heber and Gedion Zelalem.
Nonetheless, a natural No. 10 off the bench can become a dynamic off the bench piece in the short term, and a must need with an ageing starter in the long term.
"I kind of see him more as a brother now than a teammate."
— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) March 30, 2020
A Note on the State of NYCFC
Overall, it’s become a very infuriating time for NYCFC fans. With the frustrating product on the field shadowed by the absolute unacceptable environment off it. Come 2021, City will still be playing on a baseball field, with the same feeling of a franchise rather than a club that has been felt since its inception. Zero playoff wins, decreasing fan support, and an ownership group with no worries but revenue are set to plague the club another year.
Adding depth and filling spots will not fix this reality. Top to bottom changes must be made to the club in order for it to be functional again. I know this is a common feeling amongst its supporters. You know how to make a statement for change. Keep watching the club, go crazy on forums, and tweet away at every result. However, if you are tired of supporting the meme of the league, then force these changes to the club.
As NYCFC wraps up their sixth season as a club, with less fan support than ever, you wonder how much worse it’s going to get. I hope and pray that these next six years will go better than the first six. Every supporter of the club definitely feels the same way.