New York City FC has quite the year ahead of them. Fresh off the heels of their first-ever first place finish in the Eastern Conference and earning their first berth into the CONCACAF Champions League since their inception, NYCFC have needed a good offseason to ensure that their hopes of earning their first piece of silverware is definitely on tap for 2020.
But have they done that? Let’s take a look at all the moves they’ve made so far and give them some critiques.
Mind you, we are still pretty early in the offseason and more moves could — and probably will — be made. Don’t forget that club talisman Héber didn’t arrive until April of last year, a little over a month into the regular season.
With that said, let’s get to some grading!
Joe Scally transferred to Borussia Monchengladbach
Selling your kids is always a tough situation for a club. This a player that your club has cultivated, grown, and developed for years to contribute to your team. But ultimately, business is business. And this is a good piece of it.
NYCFC sold youth product Joe Scally to Bundesliga title contenders Borussia Monchengladbach this past November for a reported $2 million, with performance-based bonuses of an additional $7 million to be gained should Scally find his way. For a player that has hardly touched the pitch in a competitive match for NYCFC, this move was a no-brainer for the Boys in Blue. City will also be able to retain Scally on the roster until the end of the 2020 season.
It’s a also a reminder that we shouldn’t get too attached to James Sands. Because you better believe it — he’s next.
Letting Domé Torrent go
Was it mutual? Did Torrent just want out? Regardless of what it was, letting the Catalan manager leave with a year remaining on his contract was not a good move on NYCFC’s part.
Having tread rocky waters upon first arriving to the Bronx in 2018, Domé Torrent patiently guided NYCFC through 2019 by finishing first in the Eastern Conference. And had it not been for two costly defensive miscues in the playoffs, it’s quite possible that City could have hoisted the MLS Cup last season when the dust settled.
Like I said, nobody really knows all the details of what led Torrent to jump ship the way he did. And maybe the reason was a good one. But it’s NYCFC’s loss either way you cut it.
Signing Tayvon Gray to a Homegrown contract
Tayvon Gray has been a highly touted youngster with both the USMNT and NYCFC’s youth teams. And any time you can sign a young player to a contract with no salary hit, it’s a big win for all parties involved.
With experience at center back, right back, and even the holding midfield, Gray’s signing is a no-brainer and adds depth to several positions. Odds are we won’t see too much of him in 2020. But the future looks bright for the 17-year-old in 2021 and beyond.
Signing Keaton Parks to a permanent deal
Yes. Just, yes!
Replacing David Villa wasn’t NYCFC’s only challenge in 2019. A big source of anxiety was dealing with the Yangel Herrera-sized hold in the central midfield. Enter Texas native Keaton Parks.
Through some offseason magic, New York City was able to procure Parks on loan from Portuguese giants Benfica for a full season last year. And though things were slow to get off the ground, Parks soon found himself in Starting XI and became the glue that held everything together in the midfield.
A few weeks ago, City announced that they had brought Parks back to NYCFC on a permanent transfer, effectively retaining the entirety of their 2019 starting lineup. Great move!
The acquisition of Gedion Zelalem
If there’s any such thing as a low-risk, high-reward signing, this is it.
Believe it or not, but there was a time where the German-born Gedion Zelalem was looked at by USMNT fans in a similar way that Christian Pulisic is today. Coming through Arsenal’s youth system, the sky was seemingly the limit for Zelalem moving forward. Unfortunately, injuries and less-than-stellar loan spells throughout Europe derailed the young American’s development and he eventually found himself at Sporting Kansas City where he struggled to crack into the starting lineup and featured mostly for the club’s reserve side.
With the rising narrative that he is damaged goods at this point, Zelalem signed with NYCFC on a free transfer this offseason. Nobody is expecting much from him, but that’s his advantage. If NYCFC can squeeze any bit of productivity out of Zelalem and potentially help him find his feet again, it’s a win-win for both parties.
Appointing Ronny Deila as manager
At this moment in time, new manager Ronny Deila is an enigma. Despite a relatively successful run at Celtic that yielded two league titles and made him a fan favorite among the Hoops’ faithful, the jury is still out on whether or not Deila is the right man to take the helm in the Five Boroughs.
Now, you may be wondering why the grade is so low. Obviously, I’m not throwing shade at Ronny’s managerial ability. It’s obvious he’s had success. My issue is that he was obviously not NYCFC’s first choice.
Before City even played a playoff game last season, Gio Van Bronckhorst was the alleged heir apparent to the Bronx Blues once Domé had had his fill. And signing a manager with his resume could’ve absolutely been the perfect move. Instead, NYCFC let him slip right through their fingers and into the grasp of some obscure CSL team and had to bring in Deila in what felt like the eleventh hour.
Luckily for Super Ronny, the squad he has inherited is chock full of talent and continuity which can only help a new boss. Speaking of which...
Resigning Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to a multi-year extension
You can absolutely make a case that Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been one of the league’s best wingers in recent years. Whether it be his ability with the ball at his feet, his rapid pace, or his eye for goal, Shroddy Doddy has lit it up by any metric.
ITS had an injury-plagued season in 2019. But when healthy, his is by far my first choice at right wing as an inside forward.
Adding Gudmundur Thórarinsson as a depth piece
Once again, NYCFC made no wrong moves with this one. After losing Ben Sweat to Inter Miami in the Expansion Draft, the left back position was the only spot in the squad that lacked the necessary depth you need.
City surprised us earlier in the week with the signing of Gudmundur Thórarinsson. Able to play as a left back or holding midfielder, this acquisition could very well be the final piece to the puzzle. And if Thórarinsson can at least give Ronald Matarrita a run for his money when it comes to playing time, the deal is all the more juicier.
Is it a huge addition? Maybe not. But not every great deal is big in stature.