Last night, I noted that there were two trialists in New York City's training camp - Corben Bone and José Ribas. You can now add Shay Facey to that list. According to NYCFCWatch, Facey is a Manchester City Elite Development Squad (EDS) player. His main position is center back, but he can deputize at right back as well.
We'll get back to Facey, Ribas, and Bone in a second, but let's explore the EDS concept, to get an idea of how Manchester City approaches youth player development. There's been a lot of discussion over how many youth players might be coming on loan from Manchester City. New York City is putatively allowed to take up to four of these type of players, but sporting director Claudio Reyna recently said that the team would likely only take one of these players, if any.
The Elite Development Squad at Manchester City is predominantly an ‘Under-21' team. It replaced the Reserve team, which was composed of more senior players. Manchester City decided to replace that reserve team with the EDS squad in order to focus more deeply on youth development post-academy.
What often gets lost here is that Manchester City's academy is one of the most revered in the country, and since its new incarnation in 1998 it has produced more professional players than any other Premier League club. Currently, the academy's produced 15 graduates who've gotten senior national team caps, and another 14 who've represented their country at either the ‘U-21' or ‘U-20' level. On top of that, there are 35 graduates who've played for Manchester City's senior team at some point, and over 60 players that are current professional players.
Clearly, Manchester City are doing something right when it comes to youth development. It's easy to forget this, but youth player development is a grinder; you go through thousands of players in order to unearth the occasional professional prospect. What Manchester City is attempting to do is refine the process.
At any rate: Shay Facey is in camp. He was the vice-captain for the EDS squad last season, he made 34 appearances for the squad; so he's got potential, and lots of it. If he had experience at left back, I'd almost say he was a lock to make the team. This highlight video is a great example of his play.
I'm unclear on whether he breaks through to the New York City squad, though. The team is pretty stacked at center back, between Mendoza, Hernandez, John, and Watson-Siriboe. He's got a better shot at right back, but both Jeb Brovsky and Josh Williams have MLS experience, and both are young at 26. On top of that, there's a lot of uncertainty about roster size with a new collective bargaining agreement. If the new CBA slashes the roster size from 30 to 25 or even 20, that makes it tougher for a player like Facey to make the squad.
Don't be surprised if Facey heads back to England. That's not a dig on his skills, it's just an acknowledgement of reality.
Bone signed with the Wilmington Hammerheads of USL PRO last week. As you may know, the Hammerheads are New York City's USL PRO affiliate. A midfielder, Bone isn't a stranger to Wilmington; he was there on loan from the Philadelphia Union for a short stint. In nine games with the Hammerheads, Bone scored two goals.
Based on that, the Hammerheads wanted to get their hands on him permanently. With their relationship with New York City, it made sense for Bone to join them for preseason training.
"The timing of our partnership with NYCFC was perfect and we are really happy to start this partnership with Corben joining their preseason," said Hammerheads coach and technical director Carson Porter in a statement. "Corben is a guy that Jason Kreiss has liked for some time and it was a chance for them to get a look at him, as well as a chance for Corben to sharpen his game before he joins us in March."
For his part, Bone sounded pretty elated to join up with New York City.
"The opportunity to train with NYCFC this preseason is one that I am very grateful for," said Bone. "They are one of the most anticipated clubs in MLS history, and to be a part of that, however small, is a great honor. It gives me a unique chance to prepare for the upcoming season with the Hammerheads by playing with some of the top players in MLS. The partnership between NYCFC and the Hammerheads is a very exciting one for both clubs, and I'm sure the players, staff, and fans from both sides are anxious to help each other become better organizations."
Bone's played in MLS before; he spent parts of three seasons with the Chicago Fire, and parts of last season with the Union. Bone is, at best, a role player. He's played a total of 20 MLS games in the last four years, with a solitary assist and no goals. He was the Fire's first-round pick in the 2010 MLS Super Draft, but like many players selected after the top 10, he's struggled to make an impact. With Wake Forest, he was a box-to-box midfielder, but showed a certain degree of versatility, as the highlight film below demonstrates.
I'd expect him to spend the majority of the season with the Hammerheads, rather than making the first team. That said, Kreis has a reputation for developing lower-division players into MLS stalwarts; Bone could be the latest, but he'd be a project.
A four-year Creighton College standout, Ribas is one of many players who went undrafted in the 2015 MLS Super Draft. He started out as a midfielder, but became a left back, and that's where he remained for his collegiate career. As a senior, Ribas played 19 games and had three assists; in his collegiate career, he scored four times, and had 21 assists. He was a decent offensive weapon for the Blue Jays, as this highlight video shows.
Ordinarily, I'd say that Ribas has no shot at making New York City's roster; as things stand, it's still a really long shot. Unless you get drafted in the top 10 of the Super Draft, your chances of playing in MLS go down by about 90%. Ribas was undrafted.
Here's the thing, though: Ribas is a left back.
Right now, New York City are thin at that position. Chris Wingert is the clear starter, but he's 32 years old. At some point, New York City will need another option there, if only for rotational purposes. They drafted University of San Diego midfielder Connor Brandt, who was a left midfielder, and played at left back during the MLS Combine, but: that was a draft combine. In no way, shape, or form does that compare with actual game play.
That's where Ribas could find an opening. His proclivity for creative play, as demonstrated by his 21 assists in college play, fits into what Kreis wants out of his wing backs: the ability to create offense. The only drawback is that Ribas is from Ecuador, so he'd potentially take up an international slot, although he may be green-card eligible, which would render that moot.
But that's why you have pre-season: to figure out which way your puzzle pieces fit.