If I had told you back in May that Jo Inge Berget could be one of New York City FC’s most important players moving forward, would you have believed me? Odds are you wouldn’t have. Prior to the summer, the former Malmo forward had often been maligned when it came to his contributions on the pitch, constantly being dismissed by fans — and even us — for what looked to be his clumsiness and lack of a traditional winger’s skill set.
That perception, however, eventually changed, especially after Domé Torrent took over for former manager Patrick Vieira.
In Torrent’s first game with the club against Toronto FC on June 24, striker and club legend David Villa received a hamstring injury late in the first half. Jo Inge Berget was shifted over from the wing into the center forward spot. In the second half, Berget bagged a brace in what would ultimately be a 2-1 win.
Since Domé’s arrival, the Norwegian has totaled 3 goals and 3 assists in 8 appearances and has become a viable physical weapon that helps facilitate the team’s more technical style.
Berget hasn’t appeared since August 22 against the New York Red Bulls, in which he received an injury shortly after being subbed on in the second half. NYCFC’s record in Berget’s absence? 0-3-2 (W-L-D).
While you could say that City were already on the decline at the time of his injury, it’s apparent that NYCFC have suffered greatly without the big Scandinavian’s services. Yes, NYCFC have been missing other key players such as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jesus Medina in the interim. And while both Tajouri-Shradi and Medina have contributed immensely to the club’s success — ITS is currently the club’s goal-scoring leader — it can be argued that Berget’s presence directly plays into these players’ advantage.
One need only to look at Tajouri-Shradi’s second goal against Toronto in August (ironically NYCFC’s last win to date) to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Though he doesn’t get his head on the ball, Berget’s quick press and seal out of Nick Hagglund prevents the Toronto defender from effectively clearing the ball, instead forcing a wayward defensive header to fall directly to feet of Tajouri-Shradi, who subsequently rockets to the ball off the post and into the net.
Hell, let’s take a look back at his last appearance with the Blues against the Red Bulls. Mind you, this play took place mere moments after Berget was subbed on.
This is exactly the type of play that NYCFC have been missing in this winless stretch they currently find themselves in. Obviously, Berget is not a clinical goal-scoring threat with the Bronx Blues, nor has he been in the past with other clubs. But his situational awareness and gritty approach to both the winger and false nine roles is something that City just doesn’t have without him at their disposal.
Combined with Maxi Moralez’s stellar vision, Villa’s clinical precision (past two games notwithstanding), and Tajouri-Shradi’s knack for the spectacular, the Norwegian bruiser’s unique area of expertise could yield satisfying returns for the Boys in Blue ahead of their almost-imminent MLS Cup playoff run.