New York City made the long-rumored signing of Colombian midfielder Javier Calle official today in a statement released on the club's website.
The team signed Calle on a season-long loan agreement with an option to purchase; it is unclear where they're loaning Calle from, but a look at both transfermarkt.com, as well as other sources, suggest that Calle is being loaned from there. Both Calle and head coach Jason Kreis commented on his signing whilst on their way to Manchester, England for the next part of their preseason.
"We are very pleased to bring Javier on board. He is a left-footed, versatile and creative player who I believe will adapt well to MLS and give us some different options in midfield," said Kreis. "He has impressed both at club and international level and we are confident that he will continue to develop with us in New York."
For his part, Calle's ready for the next part of his career. "I'm very excited to join such an amazing club and have the opportunity to play for Coach Kreis," said the young midfielder. "I'm looking forward to joining my talented new teammates and my goal is to help New York City FC to succeed as quickly as possible."
Calle, 23, is predominantly a central midfielder. A left-footer, he can also play on the right and left and as an attacking midfielder. He began his career with San Fernando de Guayabal la Raya, before moving to Independiente Medellín's youth system, progressing through the ranks before joining the senior squad in 2009.
From there, Calle has been loaned twice. In 2012, he spent a year with América de Cali, appearing six times and starting three games. In 2013, he was loaned to Jaguares for four months, where he made no appearances. This past season, he's appeared in 11 games total: ten in Liga Postobón II, and once in Liga Postobón I. In the second division, Calle started six games, scoring four goals and assisting twice. He's also had five appearances with the U-20 Colombian national team, assisting once.
Calle was a significant element in Independiente Medellín's run to the final of the 2014 Clausura tournament, scoring six goals in 13 appearances in the regular season. Judging from the highlights above, Calle appears to be a pretty decent ball distributor. He plays centrally in most of these highlights, but if Kreis is sticking with his diamond formation, I'd expect him to play on the right.
UPDATE: I was lucky enough to be on BBC 5 Live's World Football Phone-In, where I had the chance to ask South American soccer expert Tim Vickery about Calle. According to Tim, Calle has a "big right foot" -- meaning that he shoots with power with his right foot. On the other hand, Calle is not a particularly mobile player, and lacks the kind of speed needed to be a truly world-class player. For Tim, the question over Calle's move to MLS is going to be whether he can find enough space on the field for him to unleash that right-footed shot, given that MLS is a faster and more physical league than Colombia's.
He expects Calle to see time on the left side of the midfield, but it'll take some work from him to make that happen. With all that, Calle is a big player, and if he can figure out how to make space or find it, he should do well.
Calle's loan signing gives Kreis more options in the midfield, particularly on the left-hand side. With Calle, New York City now have nine midfielders. Here's how they could potentially break down:
|Midfielder||Possible role in team|
|#4 Andrew Jacobson||Box-to-box, could play centrally or holding/defensive midfielder|
|#10 Mix Diskerud||Seen as a "number 10", is really more of a weird hybrid 8/10 playing primarily on the right, off the shoulder of a true "number 8" or holding/defensive mid; could also play box-to-box.|
|#11 Ned Grabavoy||Shuttler, principally on left; can play holding/defensive midfielder if needed|
|#15 Tommy McNamara||Attacking midfielder, can play on centre or in right|
|#20 Mehdi Ballouchy||Attacking midfielder, can also be a bit of a shuttler if needed|
|#23 Matthew Dunn||Holding/defensive midfielder, but is young and still a bit raw|
|#26 Sebastian Velasquez||Another attacking midfielder, can play right or left|
|#88 Kwadwo Poku||Another attacking midfielder, has played forward, could potentially play back|
|Javier Calle (no number)||Another attacking midfielder, plays centrally|
As we can see, New York City still potentially need a starting, MLS-quality holding or defensive midfielder - and they have a great number of attacking midfielders. However, with the number of midfielders and strikers they have, that need lessens somewhat, because they can deploy folks differently. For example, Kreis could choose to use a 4-3-3 lineup, like so:
At any event, it's going to be fascinating to see how he sets the team up, particularly with New York City's first-ever game - against Scottish Premier League struggler St. Mirren, on Tuesday - coming up.