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Assessing A Need: A Look into NYCFC’s Midfield

Who will NYCFC add in the midfield position for the 2020 season?

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Semifinals-Toronto FC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the offseason... A time of wonder, speculation, and drama that can only match that of a mid-2000’s TV midday soap opera. Us here at Hudson River Blue and all of the New York City FC fan base are just sitting here, at this moment, with questions. Who will the new head coach be? Will we see any new signings? Are we getting a stadium? Time allows our minds to wander and think. I am no different — my mind is wandering and the thoughts of the impending season are running through my head. So, for fun, let me write my thoughts out on paper.

NYCFC, at this point in time, still have a nearly completed roster that can compete for the Eastern Conference crown and the Supporters Shield again. If NYCFC adds a couple depth signings and doesn’t make any major splashes, I’d still feel fine about this team. The one position group that concerns me at the current moment is the midfield.

The Boys in Blue do already have a top tier midfield trio on the roster now in Maxi Moralez, Alexander Ring, and James Sands. Behind them are two youngsters in Justin Haak and Juan Pablo Torres, along with MLS veteran and Swiss army knife Tony Rocha. It’s not bad, but considering NYCFC lost both Keaton Parks and Ebenezor Ofori to start the off-season, it could be better. City has also done a great job of keeping the roster competitive in past years. The competition did not only raise the play of everyone in the position, but it made sure the players who stepped into the roles were capable.

So NYCFC has a need and considering it’s the offseason, let’s think this out. Trying to guess what player City Football Group may bring in is impossible, but I’m gonna try. I’m not going off anything except on who I think may be able to slide into this City team, specifically the midfield. Before I start, if any of these come true it means I’m a genius.

Keaton Parks

Toronto FC v New York City FC Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Why not replace a man with himself? Parks came into City last season on a season long loan from Portuguise giants Benfica. Parks struggled early on under Dome Torrent, seeing only a few starts in the early going of the season. As time progressed and injuries piled up, Parks got his chance and delivered big time. By the end of the season Parks was one of the first names on the team sheet every game. His big physical presence matched with his ability on the ball made him a stallword in the NYCFC midfield. When all was said and done, Parks accumulated over 1,300 minutes with City on the season, bagging one goal and one assist. Even though the numbers don’t really show it, Parks was one of NYCFC’s best players last year.

Why this Can Happen…

Parks is a known quantity now for City. He came in last year with a lot of question marks and answered almost all of them. He slotted in perfectly with Ring and Moralez, playing the sort of deep-lying playmaker role in the midfield trio. He’s also and American, since making the move to Europe a couple years ago, hasn’t quite lived up to the hype just yet. He started in Portugal with Varzim FC’s second team, moved to their first team, and then was transferred to Benfica in July 2017, where he’s been stuck to their second team ever since the move. Another year in MLS will allow him to build some momentum and swagger as he progresses through the early stages of his career. MLS and NYCFC may be the right move for Parks if he would like to continue his path upwards in his career.

Why it Won’t Happen…

For as much as I love MLS, if Parks get a chance with Benfica’s first team, take it. Not only would he be playing for one of the best sides in Portugal, he would also be playing in the Champions League or Europa League. His loan spell proved that he can ball and one has to think Benfica will give him a look. As a U.S. National Team fan, Portugal is the move for him if he gets game time. Parks already has one cap for the national team and I would like to see him get another shot, this time under Berhalter. If the opportunity for game time in Europe is there, Parks should take it and say goodbye to MLS.

Free Agent Player

MLS free agency is very complex and confusing, but there are options their. If NYCFC views their current midfield as good enough, an MLS veteran depth piece can prove to be what City needs. I didn’t choose to highlight one player cause there are a couple good options to look at. They’re all on the old side, but are still quality MLS players. I’m looking at Benny Feilhaber, Will Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, Jeff Larentowicz, or Kelyn Rowe. All MLS veterans and all of them would be able to contribute something to NYCFC when called upon. Out of all of these players, I would think the most likely option may be Will Johnson. I can see Feilhaber going to Minnesota United, Kljestan to Nashville SC, Rowe to Seattle Sounders, and Larentowicz to stay in the fold with Atlanta United, leaving only Will Johnson. Again, that’s all speculation, but I see Johnson as the most likely to be available out of that group. The Canadian is a true leader, a journeyman, and he knows how to win. He could be a great voice and mentor for players like Sands, Haak, and Torres.

Why This Can Happen…

Singing an MLS free agent is a money saving move. None of those players are game changing talents week in and week out, but they provide a base for a successful team. For example, with every Josef Martinez came a Jeff Larentowicz or Michael Parkhurst. With every Carlos Vela came a Steven Beitashour. Stars make the headlines, but veterans make the base of the team. Outside of their first two seasons, NYCFC hasn’t really made an effort with talent, especially veterans in MLS. The leadership and quality of a free agents like Johnson or Kljestan may help get NYCFC over the hump.

Why This Won’t Happen…

Like I just said, NYCFC hasn’t made an effort with talent in MLS ever since their second season in the league. They have been “successful” sticking to their formula of European and South American talent over MLS talent, so is their a reason to change it up? Also, looking at NYCFC’s track record with MLS veterans, who really sticks out? I would say the best player that fit into this category would be Tommy McNamara, but outside of him there isn’t one player that jumps off the page. Players like Rodney Wallace, Andrew Jacobson, Eric Miller, and now Tony Rocha have come through the door and haven’t made any significant impacts for the club. City Football Group has always looked outside the box when it comes to NYCFC and depth, and I would expect them to do the same again.

David Silva

Manchester City v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Let’s have some fun, shall we? The only rumor I’ve seen with Silva is a possible move to Japan, but wouldn’t this be amazing?

Is he old? Yeah, he’s 33. Do we already have Maxi Moralez to play this same position? Yes. Would we need a Designated Player spot to sign him? Probably. With all that being said, we’re still talking about David Silva here. He stills plays for one of the best teams in the world in Manchester City and still contributes for them. He hasn’t skipped a beat as he ages and would still perform in MLS despite being on the wrong side of 30.

Why This Can Happen…

Silva’s contract with Manchester City is set to expire after this Premier League season and one has to assume he won’t be coming back. Regardless of his play and ability, he’s old and young and flashy beats out Silva in modern soccer. With NYCFC being in City Football Group, Silva may get the chance to finish out his career with a good paycheck while living in the greatest city in the world. His good friend David Villa also played here and if they’ve talked about NYCFC, Villa must have said some good things about his time here. The formula is there and I would still love to see this happen regardless of Silva’s age.

Why This Won’t Happen…

With all that being said, this won’t happen. He still has the ability to play in Europe and still compete in Champions League level soccer if he so pleases. Also, NYCFC’s identity is no longer players like Silva. As I said before, young and flashy is what gets it done in modern soccer and that’s the way NYCFC has moved post Villa-Pirlo-Lampard era. If a Designated Player spot opens up, NYCFC would go young and not old. So sorry, David Silva lovers, it’s not going to happen.

Anders Christiansen

Chelsea v Malmo FF - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Back to Earth for the final one here and I think this is the most realistic signing we may see from NYCFC. Christian wrote way back in July how Christiansen was no longer being pursued by NYCFC, but that was in the middle of the season, and off-season transfers always work differently in MLS. Christiansen is a 29-year-old central midfielder who plays for Malamö FF in Sweden, which is the former club of Anton Tinnerholm. He is currently tearing it up in Sweden, having 9 goals and 3 assists so far in the Allsvenskan season in 24 games. He also has one goal and one assist in the Europa League this year. Christiansen has also appeared for his home country of Denmark four times in his career.

Why This Can Happen…

Christiansen fits the City mold. A European midfielder with Champions League experience that can come in on a TAM deal. He would slot in perfectly next to Alex Ring and play a box-to-box type role. He is serviceable both defensively and offensively, as seen by his goal output total so far this season. The move was obviously stopped in the summer time, but City can easily pick up the phone and look back into Christiansen, as I think he would be the perfect fit for the City midfield and be a perfect replacement for Keaton Parks.

Why This Won’t Happen…

City already tried to get Christiansen and already failed. They could pick up the phone and try again, but do both clubs want to do that? His contract with Malamö is also all the way until 2024 and he is arguably their best player at the current moment. I have more so highlighted Christiansen to show what type of player City is going to target for their midfield position, if they so choose to do. Christiansen is the prototype and I would not be shocked to see NYCFC sign a player that resembles exactly what Christiansen can bring to the table.

Will any of this happen, probably not, but damn it I tried. City’s roster is still good at the current moment, but it can always be better. It’s hard to put names to the players City Football Group finds in places like Romania and Sweden. Again, this was all my opinion and none of this was or is official, outside of the failed Christiansen signing. If you have any suggestions on who NYCFC should sign, feel free to tweet me and maybe I’ll look into writing about your suggestions on who City should sign for next season. But for now, we sit here and wonder. Let’s not panic yet, but here’s your reminder that the preseason starts in 39 days.