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New York City FC’s improving defense

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Over NYCFC’s first three years in MLS, their defense has steadily turned into one of the league’s best.

MLS: New York City FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC’s first-year defense was porous and a main reason for them missing the playoffs. They made the playoffs last season in year two, however they conceded the most regular season goals of any team to do so — and then they were promptly destroyed by Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

That year, they made the playoffs because of their offense, not their defense. This season was a different story. Patrick Vieira focused on improving City’s defense by bringing in Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens this past offseason, which immediately paid dividends. They only let in 43 goals in 2017, and that was with starter Maxime Chanot missing significant time. They also had 42.6 expected goals against (xGA), which shows they were very consistent defensively, and didn't rely much on luck. Over the last two seasons, they have given up about four less goals than their xGA. The defensive improvement has been a major help for the team overall.

As you can see, NYCFC devoted a bit more of their salary this season to defense. While the increase might not be that great, it shows that the team is being more conscious about this side of the pitch. They recognized a need and tried to fix it. This proactive behavior is exactly what you want to see from a front office.

Clearly, the increased percentage of budget spent on defense is a positive sign. Now, City just need to utilize their third DP spot effectively. With a fully healthy Chanot and Ronald Matarrita, plus a full season of Andraz Struna, the defense will certainly be intimidating. Now, onto the offense!

What do you think? How has the defense performed? Should the third DP slot be used on a defender? Leave your comments below.