Most of you know by now that in between September 5 and September 10, New York City FC will be missing four key players due to international duty — namely Sean Johnson, Ronald Matarrita, Maxime Chanot, and Alexander Callens.
In Johnson, City are losing their first choice goalkeeper. In both Chanot and Callens, NYCFC will be without one of the best center back duos in the league. And though Matarrita has had somewhat of an inconsistent season — and only has one international game to play — he is obviously Domé Torrent’s go-to guy at left back and integral to the system that the Blues have implemented in 2019.
The worst part of all of this is that it comes in the thick of NYCFC’s push towards first place in the Eastern Conference, and overlaps two key matchups for NYCFC: their September 7 home match against the formidable New England Revolution and a September 11 rematch against Toronto FC.
It is inexcusable that NYCFC (and MLS clubs in general) must withstand this kind of handicap in going into these must-win games with a less-than-optimal squad due to international competition. No other league has to deal with this to the degree that Major League Soccer does. And it’s time for that to change.
Now, one could argue that because the every team in MLS is subjected to this, it’s more than fair. But let me put it like this: from the research I’ve done, I can’t find any players from New England that have received international call-ups of any kind, while Toronto is losing three players — Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, and Liam Fraser — to Canada’s national team, which means NYCFC has lost more players to international duty than either of those two teams combined. Try wrapping your head around that.
Even if there are other players missing, my point is this — MLS needs to start implementing international breaks. And I don’t mean those breaks where most teams aren’t playing and a handful of others are. I mean actual breaks where teams aren’t burdened with the task of playing with backups and/or reserve players in the middle of pushing towards the top of the table.