Remember back in high school, before winter break, when you were just done dealing with all your schoolwork? You spent that last week of classes before Christmas time just saying to yourself, “that’s an issue I can deal with in January.” After a week and a half of sleeping and more sleeping, January 2nd hits you like a brick. The work you put off for January is now due tomorrow. To put it plain and simple; you’re screwed.
Right now, New York City FC is high school you. They entered the holidays with questions, left them unanswered, and now they need answering, and soon. NYCFC kicks off preseason training in Florida on January 11, which according to my calculations, is in 9 days.
Outside of the roster cuts and the signing of homegrown Tayvon Gray, the roster has had no notable change to it. I’ve said it previously and many others have said that this NYCFC roster, even with no big additions, is fine the way it is. At the moment, all regular starters are returning, outside of Keaton Parks who rotated in and out throughout the season. The same team that won the regular-season Eastern Conference crown, will still be intact for the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League and 2020 MLS campaign.
The starting eleven is top-tier for MLS standards, but the depth is the concern for me. The roster cuts didn’t affect the starting 11, but it cut deep into the bench. NYCFC lost players like Eric Miller and Ebenezer Ofori, two players who proved they could contribute at this level in a pinch. The lack of depth in the midfield is concerning. Not only did NYCFC lose two players in that positions, but 32-year-old Maxi Moralez played almost every minute last season, which totaled over 2,500 minutes. Moralez is an elite playmaker, but questions about this age and longevity are legitimate as he enters his mid-30’s. The captain Alexander Ring also logged over 2,800 minutes last season. Considering NYCFC’s league and Champions League aspirations, Ring needs someone that can come in behind and eat up minutes in his spot. I wrote about options for players NYCFC could pick up a little while back.
You can look at this roster at every position, except goalkeeper, and say NYCFC need pieces that can contribute over the season. Losing Ben Sweat also hurts defensive depth, leaving the injury-prone (and mistake-prone) Ronald Mattarita as the only natural left-back on the roster. The area other than the midfield that concerns me is the depth behind Héber. Outside of the Brazilian striker, NYCFC has no natural No. 9 on the roster. Valentin Castellanos proved he could play there this past season, but whether it’s his best position or not is still yet to be seen. Héber has been borderline elite during his short time with City so far, but that time has also been injury-plagued. Someone needs to come in behind Héber to provide a safety blanket and a scoring touch off the bench. NYCFC can look at the USL level or around MLS for an answer, but knowing City Football Group, we can expect an out-of-the-box signing if NYCFC wants to truly address the spot behind Heber.
The biggest question that remains is obviously the lack of a coach. Domé Torrent went off on the ownership group before he bowed out and if reports are true, he may land back in MLS despite going off on the North American spending system. NYCFC was set to hire former Feyernord manager Giovanni Von Bronckhorst, who was set to be groomed to become Pep Guardiola’s successor at Manchester City. The Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, reported earlier today the Von Bronckhorst rejected City Football Group’s offer and is in line to become the new manager at the Chinese Super League Club, Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C. It’s not a good look for City Football Group or NYCFC that Gio rejected their offer for the Chinese Super League, essentially robbing New York City — and MLS in general — of an exciting, young coach.
The rejection from Gio seems to have NYCFC scrambling for a new man. After the early reports, Gio was the man to take over — we heard no other names being brought to the table. Now after he rejected NYCFC, we still have no new names. Glenn Crooks of WFAN reported that NYCFC has a man lined up to take charge of NYCFC, but didn’t disclose any names.
A name Christian Smith brought up for the position is longtime assistant Javier Perez. Perez began as an NYCFC assistant when Patrick Vieira took over the club on January 1, 2016 and has been with the club ever since. Perez was the coach of the US U-18 team for 4 years, was on Tab Ramos’s staff for the US U-20 and U-23 teams, and was on Jurgen Klinsmann staff for the 2014 World Cup. Perez was close with the former NYCFC technical director, Claudio Reyna when they both worked on developing the U.S. coaching curriculum before their jobs with NYCFC. Perez hasn’t had a big-time shot yet, but this could be his chance to take the reins.
It’s hard to speculate who else it could be because no other names have been mentioned at all (Jason Kreiss doesn’t have a job, but who wants to go back to his 4-4-2 diamond?). The lack of any transparency between the club and it’s fans is concerning and frustrating, and it is starting to become pretty clear about how far down the totem pole NYCFC is when it comes to CFG and their priorities. The reality of being a feeder club for CFG is coming to the limelight and it’s not fun. All of this plus the lack of any stadium plan makes it even more frustrating.
So, with 9 days till preseason, many questions remain and no answers have yet to be found. All I can do right now is preach patience. NYCFC didn’t have everything figured out till about 8 weeks into last season and we see where they ended up.
216 hours to go until January 9. But who’s counting?