If you haven't paid attention to New York City's roster, you'd be justified in thinking that head coach Jason Kreis is using every means at his disposal to recreate his team at Real Salt Lake. The latest acquisition is midfielder Sebastian Velasquez, who played under Kreis for two seasons.
The trade is expected to be officially announced sometime Friday. According to Bill Riley of ESPN AM 700, New York City is acquiring Velasquez for around $50,000 in allocation money, although because of league policy, the exact amount will not be disclosed.
In Velasquez, Kreis is getting a highly-talented midfielder who can play on either the top or the outside of Kreis' preferred diamond formation. In his rookie season, Velasquez appeared in nine games for Real Salt Lake, starting five of them. His breakout season came in 2013, when Velasquez appeared in nineteen games, with nine starts. He had three assists during the regular season, but really made his mark during the MLS Cup playoffs. Velasquez appeared in all five RSL playoffs, starting twice. He scored his first career goal against the Galaxy, whom RSL defeated in the Western Conference semifinals.
In the MLS Cup Final, Velasquez entered the game as a substitute in the 87th minute. With the penalty shootout -- the longest in MLS Cup history, and RSL's second in as many Cup appearances -- tied at five apiece, Velasquez had a shot at winning RSL's second league title.
That, Velasquez said later, changed his life. "I think that was my moment and it definitely changed me and changed the way I look at the game," Velasquez mentioned at the beginning of this past season, "and I think it’s going to help me throughout my career."
The 2014 season, however, proved taxing for the young player. Muscular injuries plagued him, and instead of improving on an impressive sophomore season, Velasquez struggled to get playing time. He wound up playing in just ten games, with a solitary start and one goal. On May of 2014, his year went from bad to worse. That's when Velasquez was arrested for driving under the influence. He later pled guilty to the offense, and was sentenced to probation, a fine, and performing community service.
With this trade, Velasquez gets a chance to begin anew, playing under a coach for whom he excelled.
Velasquez brings an element of flair and excitement to New York City's midfield. While at RSL, Velasquez was notorious for his dribbling ability and movement into space, as well as being able to take on defenders one-on-one. Velasquez was also famous among RSL fans for his mullet, something he has in common with former Chivas USA midfielder Thomas McNamara, who was acquired in last week's expansion draft.
That's worth noting, because the combination of Velasquez and McNamara in the same midfield will make for some electrifying play. If you add a third designated player as your number 10, New York City would potentially have one of the most exciting midfields in the league, capable of bringing the game to any opponent. In a weakened Eastern Conference, that's something that could prove meaningful as the team pushes for a playoff spot in its inaugural season.