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2018 NYCFC roster preview: Midfielders

Maxi, Ring, and Herrera all return after great performances in 2017.

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With opening day of the 2018 MLS season almost upon us, let’s take a look at the new and improved New York City FC roster. There have been nine (!!) new signings for the club this offseason, adding to an impressive group of returning starters that helped lead the team to a conference semifinal appearance last season.

Previously, we looked at the keepers and defenders. Next up is the midfield, where the team’s effective three-man core returns for 2018.

The Future

  • James Sands
  • Kwame Awuah

Both of these young talents joined the club in 2017. Awuah was obtained via the MLS SuperDraft, while Sands was signed to the club’s first-ever Homegrown contract. Neither saw many minutes last season, and considering all of the talent that the club brought in during the offseason, Sands and Awuah may again be relegated to standing in for resting starters. However, both offer a wealth of talent and Vieira may opt to give one a shot if a starter begins to falter or goes down with injury. Awuah is also a big personality on the team, just check out the preseason team updates and you’ll see a lot of him and his antics.

The Role Players

  • Tommy McNamara
  • Ebenezer Ofori

TMac, the ‘Legend of West Nyack’ shocked the world in 2017 when he cut the hair that made him a cult hero with City Supporters. McNamara was unable to replicate his fantastic 2016 season, yet he continued to play regularly in Patty V’s system, even wearing the captain’s armband on a few occasions.

Ofori finally arrived in the Bronx from VfB Stuttgart after many months of rumors and whispers. The 22-year-old Ghanaian international will start the season on the bench and is expected to spell the likes of Herrera and Ring, but he could eventually work his way into the Starting XI.

The Starters

  • Maxi Moralez
  • Alexander Ring
  • Yangel Herrera

All returning from 2017, this group is largely responsible for last year’s success. Ring impressed everyone around the league, quickly acclimating his physical midfield style to the equally physical nature of MLS. Although he was unable to open his scoring account, Ring often won balls in the midfield and turned opponents’ attacks into City counter-attacks.

‘Maxi’ is NYCFC’s No. 10 and one of the club’s three Designated Players. The DP designation always comes with lofty expectations and Maxi’s (what many considered) inconsistent play last season left fans wanting more. That being said, he was effective in moving the ball forward and another season in Vieira’s system should prove invaluable for the Argentine. Maxi will be expected to consistently distribute the ball to the forwards and create goal-scoring opportunities, and with the new tools the front office has brought in, he will have everything at his disposal to get it done.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at New York City FC
Yangel Herrera slides across the pitch at Yankee Stadium
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

At just 20, the young Herrera is already a driving force for the team. Borrowing a concept from hockey, I like to think of Herrera and Ring as the team’s ‘enforcers.’ They will attack opposing players with relentless physicality and win a lot of balls in the midfield. The Venezuelan was able to remain with the Pigeons for at least one more season when NYCFC extended his loan from Manchester City. Expect Herrera to continue to grow and improve upon an impressive 2017 campaign.