In late November, teams all across Major League Soccer announced their roster decisions for the upcoming season by way of which players’ options the teams would be picking up and which ones they would be dropping. Our very own New York City FC partook in this exercise as well, declining the options of several players, although central defender Maxime Chanot was able to work out a new contract with the club. For the most part, though, these players will be looking for new teams and there are a few names I found interesting and who NYCFC should seriously consider adding to their roster this winter.
Walker Zimmerman had sort of a breakout year this season, as he joined new club Los Angeles FC for their inaugural season and played well enough to even earn himself a few call ups to the US Men’s National Team. The former FC Dallas product is coming off a stellar season and has no shortage of suitors, as his play has even drawn interest from teams overseas and in Mexico. Adding to that is — even though they declined his option, after spending $500K in allocation money to get him from Dallas last winter — LAFC are evidently interested in working out a new deal with Zimmerman.
For NYCFC, though, the 25-year-old Zimmerman could provide a strong aerial force in the backline and is also no stranger to playing with the ball at his feet. To get such a young national team quality defender would be a huge addition to the Bronx Blues. However, with all of his rumored non-domestic interest and the fact the club has already resigned Chanot to a multi year contract, getting a player of Zimmerman’s quality is probably nothing more than wishful thinking on my part.
While Zimmerman was a more established player who could improve the club right now, my other two selections have more of an eye to the future.
Drafted 11th overall in the 2017 SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire, Johnson has yet to make his mark in MLS, having only played a grand total of 386 minutes in his first two seasons with Chicago. To make matters worse, it appears Johnson is no longer in the club’s future plans as they have declined his option.
However, at still just 23 years of age, Johnson has shown some flashes of quality in limited time (sound familiar?). Originally an attacking midfielder, Johnson has seen limited time while also playing out on the wings, in the defensive midfield and even at full back for the Fire. And while he hasn’t done much so far in his young career, part of me wonders if all of the issues Chicago dealt with in a very disappointing season could’ve hurt Johnson’s development this season? Even with the limited minutes, he was able to bag 3 goals in 2018. Johnson might be a sneaky under-the-radar signing who could provide attacking depth at the wings and in midfield for City.
The once heralded 2nd overall pick in the 2016 SuperDraft, Yaro has seen his stock fall tremendously since the day he was drafted. A series of misplayed balls, gaffes, and overall lack of understanding the professional game did him in early with the Philadelphia Union. Then injuries derailed what could’ve been a comeback trail for him this season. Making matters worse, Homegrown Player signings Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie have become the Union’s central defense pairing of the future, leaving little room for Yaro in Philly’s long term plans.
Now while I’m not expecting Yaro to any longer become the franchise-changing player many saw him as before he was drafted, I do think he is a player worth taking a chance on. His athleticism and talent could allow him to be more of a Swiss army knife defender, either as part of a 3-man backline, or even perhaps as a converted fullback (remember Ethan White?) who could also provide depth across the back for City.
These are just a few names that caught my eye when reading the MLS roster announcements. Please tell us of any other names you think NYCFC should target as they build towards the 2019 season!