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New York City training camp notes, 1/26/14

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Today marked the third day of training camp for New York City FC. Where do things stand at the beginning of pre-season?

Jason Kreis looks over New York City players in the first day of preseason
Jason Kreis looks over New York City players in the first day of preseason
New York City FC

New York City officially kicked off their first organized activities as a team with the start of preseason camp this past Saturday. Players began trickling into Jacksonville, Fla., over the last few days, ready to get things going as a team.

Things got going at Patton Park bright and early on Saturday. The team spent Saturday and Sunday going through individual and team drills, in preparation for the season. Even if the drills look simple, the fact remains that New York City have never played together as a team.

It takes thousands of hours of drill work in order for teammates to create, then build the understanding necessary to react in a split second during games. In addition to drills, the team spent hours in the gym, building strength and endurance for the season to come.

David Villa strike

NYCFC training camp 2

NYCFC training camp 3

Where does the roster stand?

As of today, the roster is near completion: with Frank Lampard, New York City has 23 players. The rumored additions of Colombian midfielder Javier Calle and Slovakian forward Adam Nemec haven’t been announced, nor have those players been seen in training camp. Should they sign, that would bring New York City to 25 players.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires this Saturday at midnight, MLS clubs can have up to 30 players on the roster, with any of those players eligible for the 18-player game-day squad for the regular season or playoffs.

Even if they add Nemec and Calle, New York City is still lacking an elite holding/defensive midfielder, and it’s arguable that they don’t have an elite "number 10" midfielder. With only five business days left in the January transfer window, time is growing short for New York City to add a European-based designated player, if that is what they plan on doing.

Here’s the complete roster of players, along with trialists. I’ve included uniform numbers where known.

GOALKEEPERS DEFENDERS MIDFIELDERS FORWARDS TRIALISTS
#1 Akira Fitzgerald #2 Andres Mendoza (i) #4 Andrew Jacobson #7 David Villa (DP) (i) José Ribas (i)
#12 Josh Saunders #3 Kwame Watson-Siriboe #10 Mix Diskerud #14 Patrick Mullins Corben Bone
#18 Ryan Meara #5 Jeb Brovsky #15 Tommy McNamara #99 Tony Taylor
#13 Josh Williams #20 Mehdi Ballouchy (i) Khiry Watson
#17 Chris Wingert #23 Matt Dunn
#21 Jason Hernandez Ned Grabavoy
George John Kwadwo Poku (i)

The team had nine international slots; currently, five of those slots are taken, with Lampard holding down the fifth slot. Should the team officially sign Nemec and Calle, that would leave New York City with two remaining international slots for either a holding/defensive midfielder or an elite attacking midfielder.

Between the two positions, I expect New York City to sign a league veteran for that deep-lying midfielder position. While the January window slams shut on Monday, the MLS pre-season transfer window is open from February 12 through May 6. Moreover, it’s not like there isn’t talent available on the roster already for that position. Kwadwo Poku started out as a holding midfielder before moving on up, and Matthew Dunn played there for Chivas, as well as box-to-box. The question is whether either of those two players can contribute immediately at the MLS level, and that’s currently unknown. My guess is that the answer is no.

The same question applies at the trequartista/"number 10" spot; until Frank Lampard arrives, New York City doesn’t have an elite player at that position. Even Lampard isn’t a true "number 10"; he’s always been more of a box-to-box "number 8", whether for Chelsea or for England.

As I’ve written before, Mix Diskerud isn’t that player. Everyone seems to think he's a number 10, but he really isn't. Where Mix excels is as a hybrid 8/10, playing off the shoulder of a number 6. That means he’s probably better off at right midfielder.

Neither Sebastian Velasquez nor Tommy McNamara have proven themselves at the MLS level for that potential. They both have loads of potential, but in McNamara’s case, he was cut down by an unfortunate ligament tear in his knee. In Velasquez’s case, off-field issues and the departure of Jason Kreis saw him get sidelined at RSL.

Who can fill those spots?

I’ll explore this in greater depth in another post, but there’s some clear MLS talent available. That said, remember that the CBA expires this weekend. Although things will proceed as scheduled for the time being, MLS players are threatening to strike if they don’t get free agency through the new CBA. We also don’t know if roster sizes will be reduced, which is something that both the league and some owners want.

Combine that uncertainty — which will likely run through preseason all the way to the start of the season on March 7 — with the complicated, at best, relationship that CFG has with New York City, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kreis spend the pre-season testing out his current midfielders in a variety of slots.