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10 things we know about this NYCFC team

What 19 regular season games tell us about this third edition of the Bronx Blues

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Patrick Vieira’s highly specific style really does work! Last year, questions were rightfully asked about whether building up from the back and keeping a high defensive line made even a lick of sense for New York City. This year’s roster has put those questions to rest.
  2. Alex Ring was sent by the gods. Basically every new signing has been a hit this year, but the fearless Finn is like The Dude’s rug— he ties it all together. On both ends of the field, his rugged efforts legitimize basically every single thing Vieira wants New York City to do. The best damn tackler in MLS, and he can play with the ball at his feet? That’s why he’s the Ringmaster.
  3. All things considered, the soccer fan experience at Yankee Stadium is good. Transportation? Nearby amenities? Improved security and law enforcement environment? The always-bumpin’ supporters section? Yeah, the playing surface is still downright demoralizing, but spectators don’t have much to complain about this year in terms of overall atmosphere. That’s positive, because this team won’t have its own house for... what, six more years? Seven? Honestly, it could be more.
  4. Sean Johnson can’t come back fast enough. It’s a bummer to watch him be the forgotten man on the USA Gold Cup squad. But it’s a soccering tragedy watching a maddeningly skittish Eirik Johansen leak goals for fun. Throw us a bone, Bruce!
  5. Two things need to happen for NYCFC to become a juggernaut: unload Frederic Brillant and his burdensome contract, and use Andrea Pirlo’s DP spot on a dynamic midfielder to play between Ring and Maxi Moralez. Brillant is a liability both on the field and on the balance sheet; freeing up that salary cap space and targeted allocation money gives New York City crucial flexibility in the transfer market. As for Pirlo, surely the club has already planned a graceful exit befitting his legendary status. All that’s left is to find a long-term talent to step into the two-way role that Yangel Herrera won’t be around to hold down forever. When both of these things happen, it’s motherf—ing go-time.
  6. Speaking of Moralez, he makes more sense on this team than Frank Lampard did. Particularly in the context of Vieira’s playing style, there’s just no comparison.
  7. Everyone and their mom missed on Ben Sweat. He never saw the field for Columbus in league play. He had to spend 2016 in the NASL. And he had a goal and an assist in New York City’s first-ever win at Red Bull Arena to add to an already-impressive run in place of the injured Ronald Matarrita. Nobody had any idea that this kid would become an impact player. But he’s done it.
  8. The single most underrated NYCFC narrative is the start of the homegrown pipeline. !!!JAMES SANDS!!! is just a vanguard. He’s got a brother. Claudio Reyna’s got a son. This club’s burgeoning youth academy has taken a massive first step in utterly revolutionizing what we mean when we say “New York City FC.”
  9. Drafting Khiry Shelton was a mistake. We’re actually among the bigger Shelton fans you’ll find. The dude has real talent to go along with a tantalizing size/speed combination. His improvement from 2015 to ‘16 was massively impressive. But he’s still out with a bad hamstring injury, the team is doing just fine without him, and both Cyle Larin and Cristian Roldan were there for the taking if Jason Kreis & Co. had planned out their 2015 SuperDraft differently.
  10. Say it, haters: New York City FC is a Cup contender. Unfortunately, I don’t see them winning it this year. But it’s only a matter of time.