New York City FC released its 28-man preseason roster this afternoon. Two notable names were missing: midfielder Mix Diskerud, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Diskerud’s absence shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. The Norwegian-American international hasn’t featured for the Blues in any capacity since an embarrassing loss to the New York Cosmos in last year’s Open Cup. The team’s made no secret of its desire to offload the midfielder, and his ludicrously expensive contract, which reportedly stands at $750,000/year and lasts for another two years. For his part, Diskerud’s evinced next to no interest in his playing “career”, spending more time hawking baseball caps, and generally living it up in the five boroughs.
The fact that Saunders isn’t on the roster, on the other hand, is intriguing. That could be because, at 35 and being the incumbent starter, Vieira simply wants Saunders to rest up some more.
Or it could signal the inevitable transition to a younger goalkeeper. Not only do the Blues have Eirik Johansen - who started the season closer and in the post-season - they also signed former Chicago starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who’s 27. It’s no secret that Vieira prefers his goalkeeper to be comfortable with the ball at his feet. Saunders has never demonstrated that level of comfort. Moreover, Saunders’ game has always been dependent on athleticism more than it has on reading the game in front of him, and as he’s aged, his ability to make saves has correspondingly declined.
While Johnson isn’t noted for his ability to play with the ball at his feet, he is younger than Saunders and could develop that level of comfort. And if not, there’s always Johansen, who acquitted himself decently in his four appearances last season.
Returning as a trialist is former Blues draftee Connor Brandt, who spent the majority of his NYC career on the injury list. Both Vieira and former Blues manager Jason Kreis saw Brandt as a left wingback, and he would certainly provide depth if healthy.
Former Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Farfan also joins the team as a trialist. Farfan played two seasons with the Union, appearing in 82 games and scoring four goals, before being sold to Mexican giants Cruz Azul in 2014. He was released six months into a three-year deal, then signed with DC United in 2015, appearing in 17 games. He signed with Seattle last year, and appeared once.
New York City’s draftees — Kwame Awuah, Michael Degraffenreidt, Jonathan Lewis, Chris Wingate, and Jalen Brown — are also joining the team in preseason. Defender Ben Sweat, midfielder John Sterzer, and Haitian forward Robert Louima are also trialing with the Blues. NYCFC Academy player James Sands - who’s featured with the USMNT U17 side - is also traveling with the team.
The team will train in Jacksonville, playing a scrimmage against Jacksonville University on February 2nd, before traveling to Ecuador to play Ecuadorian giants Emelec on February 8 in the team’s first official friendly of 2017. The full training camp roster can be seen in the sidebar.
(ed. note — post was updated to note the inclusion of Lewis as a draftee and Sands.)