On Tuesday afternoon at the Manhattan Ballroom, just steps from Grand Central station, we caught our first glimpse of NYCFC 2.0.
Jason Kreis was bullish about his team's future as the club unveiled prodigal son/goal-machine Frank Lampard, Athletic Bilbao legend Andoni Iraola, and Manchester City youth prodigy Jose "Angelino" Tasende. All four fielded questions from the media together for the first time as the YES Network's cameras rolled.
The excitement is mounting to a fever pitch as we draw nearer to this weekend's showdown against Toronto, in which all three players will hope to make their sky blue debut.
The event was split into two parts, with Iraola and Angelino opening the proceedings, followed by the main event with Kreis and Lampard. Here's what we learned.
IRAOLA: "Whatever I can do to help my teammates."
Andoni Iraola is a Spanish international and a club captain with over 500 appearances for Athletic Bilbao, a routine top-five finisher in the Spanish Liga. But, despite his tantalizing class as an attacking fullback, I didn't sense a shred of ego from the guy.
Best bits from Iraola:
- This man is a willing mentor: "I'm excited to play with the young [NYCFC] players and watch them develop."
- He knows a little about Major League Soccer: "If you watch MLS, the level of play is higher than people think." He alluded to the undeniable class of David Villa and Frank Lampard.
- Iraola's a fullback who loves to drive forward, but expressed willingness to play elsewhere: "I've played all around the midfield. Whatever I can do to help my teammates."
- He's hip to the uniqueness of MLS, especially the playoff structure: "There's a lot of parity in MLS, so small decisions determine big results." He pointed to the importance of the next handful of matches against Eastern Conference opponents in terms of NYCFC wrangling a playoff spot.
ANGELINO: "I need to make a name for myself here."
Jose Angel Esmoris Tasende is the biggest conundrum of the three new boys. He looks like he's fifteen years old, but we've been promised that he is, in fact, a legal adult.
He's repped mostly at left fullback -- Kreis favorite Chris Wingert's ideal spot -- but has pushed forward to the left wing for the Man City U-21's as well. His ceiling projects to be incredibly high as an attacking talent, but he is, of course, a loan player. How long of a look will NYCFC fans get before he's whisked away by the parent company?
Best bits from Angelino:
- He's anything but tentative: "I like to overlap on the outside and bring crosses into the box." Those are two things that no NYCFC left back has done this year, as Wingert is a more defensive-oriented, short-passing type.
- He's still a bit star-struck. He was part of the youth system at Deportivo in his native Galicia while New York City's Pablo Alvarez featured for the senior team, and said he never would have thought he'd cross paths with the fellow Galician once again, much less in the United States.
- Also, this: "I need to make a name for myself here so I can go back to Manchester and try for the first team, or whatever the future holds."
Whoops https://t.co/QrKFxvfAOl— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) July 7, 2015
@thegoalkeeper Just don't call them a Farm Team.— Christopher Dwyer (@dwyercd) July 7, 2015
@GothamistDan ooooooof. Everyone's fears realized in one sentence.— Mike Pacific (@mpacific) July 7, 2015
LAMPARD: "I'm a city boy!"
New York City's prodigal son is back, and he's ready to rise to the occasion. He stands to be an immediate contributor up the middle, and may find himself at the tip of the midfield diamond if Kreis chooses to stay in that formation.
Also: Frank his hungry. He knows that the fans went into conniptions when his Manchester City contract -- not loan, contract -- was extended in the waning days of 2014.
But we can finally put that behind us now. Frank just wants to go to work.
Best bits from Super Frank:
- He's watched MLS from the beginning: "It's a fantastic league. I've seen it grow."
- His adjustment period is going along swimmingly, with no small credit to the manager: "It's been very easy to fit in during training." He characterized Kreis as "very sharp" on the training pitch.
- Frank does his homework: "I've watched all [NYCFC's] games and I know all our players" and their playing styles.
- On whether the longtime Londoner has had a 'New York moment' so far: "I haven't been on the subway yet, but I'm a city boy. I love the buzz of it."
- But is he feeling the pressure after missing out on the first half of the year, much to the chagrin of the fans? "If you're going to be a top player, you have to thrive on pressure. My challenge is to try to win, and I wouldn't come here if I didn't have a lot left to offer."
- On what he stands to bring to the squad: "I'm not just an attacking midfielder. I can play off the ball." He expressed a desire to create goals in addition to scoring them, which he did at a prodigious clip during his legendary run at Chelsea.
Wracked by injuries and built from scratch, further questions remain about what this new team is really made of.
One thing we do know, however? It's a new day in New York City.
Wake up and smell the playoffs.