We hardly knew ye, Miguel Camargo.
The midfielder was injured in last night's Gold Cup loss to Costa Rica in the run of play, in the 60th minute. As bad as the injury looked on the field -- and it was bad -- the news is even worse. Camargo's injury turned out to be a non-displaced hip fracture. With surgery and recovery, he'll be out for at least three months, and as a result, he'll miss the remainder of the MLS season.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
New York City signed the Panamanian midfielder on loan from his home club in Pamana, Chorrillos FC, in January. While he hadn't distinguished himself in MLS play thus far, the Gold Cup was another matter entirely. During the group stage, Camargo was far and away Panama's best player. His performance drew plaudits from manager Patrick Vieira, as well as other observers. With winger Rodney Wallace already set to miss a number of weeks with an injured adductor muscle, Camargo was primed to take up a more significant role in the squad.
Camargo's injury changes things significantly for the Pigeons. In contrast to last season's tactical and formational experimentation, New York City's consistently lined up in a 4-3-3. That's meant a midfield of Maxi Moralez at the 10, Alex Ring at the 8, and Yangel Herrera at the 6, with a forward line of Wallace and Jack Harrison on the wings and captain David Villa as the center forward.
However, injuries and international play have forced Vieira into changes to that lineup. Generally speaking, that's meant slotting Swiss Army™ midfielder Tommy McNamara in at either Moralez's position as a number 10, or in Wallace's spot as a left winger. Despite his efforts, McNamara isn't a natural winger; he lacks the speed and the touch needed there. McNamara fits in better centrally, though the drop-off from Moralez to him is significant.
So, if not McNamara, who? The conundrum is that Vieira's ideologically committed to lining up in a 4-3-3. That limits the team's options for who can step in. Looking at the roster, you have the following options in the midfield and forward positions:
- Kwame Awuah, 21: Awuah starred for UConn in college, playing 19 games as a senior, scoring twice with seven assists. But he's only played one minute all season.
- James Sands, 17: starred in the U17 Concacaf Championships for the U.S., helping them qualify for the U17 World Cup. But he's got no professional experience, and I suspect we're a couple of years away from seeing him get game time.
- Jonathan Lewis, 20: New York City's draft pick, he was the MAC Freshman of the Year for Akron, scoring twice with 16 assists. He got called up to the U20 squad and participated in their camp. He's got 23 minutes of game time this season, mostly in garbage time.
- Khiry Shelton: New York City's second overall draft pick in 2015. Shelton played 22 games last season, started 13, and he was excellent in those games, scoring four times and dishing out nine assists. This season? Not so much; he's been plagued with injuries, and he's currently working his way back to full fitness.
- Ugo Okoli: The Pigeons signed Okoli as a forward option after he won the USL's Golden Boot with FC Cincinnati last season, with 16 goals. But he's been a relative non-factor this season -- nine games played, two starts, one solitary goal. How come? One reason is how Vieira lines up the team. Vieira doesn't really do a lot of squad rotation, unless he has to, and Okoli's basically a target man in a team that doesn't fire in a ton of crosses or utilize a target forward. But Okoli hasn't really adapted his play to reflect that, either.
To me, there's really one good option, assuming he's ready to go. That's Khiry Shelton. Shelton hasn't just proved he can play at this level; playing the left wing, specifically, was his natural position in NCAA play at Oregon State. If Vieira's determined to stick with a 4-3-3, then Shelton -- not McNamara -- is the better option at that position.
As for Camargo, unfortunately, it looks like his time in Gotham is finished. Given that he didn't particularly impress prior to the Gold Cup, and that he's only here on loan, it would be surprising if New York City decided to buy his contract simply based on his performance at the tournament, especially with an injury like his.