Position: Central Defender
2021 League Games: 30 games, 29 starts, 2603 minutes played
2021 Postseason: 4 games, 4 starts, 420 minutes played
What went right in 2021:
When your defense wins you a title, you can’t say much went wrong. Since Maxime Chanot’s arrival at New York City FC midway through the 2016 season, he has been one of the most consistent defenders in MLS—last year he and Alexander Callens were arguably the best center-back pairing in the league. NYCFC allowed 36 goals last year, good enough for sixth-best in the league.
The Luxembourg international played every minute of the 2021 playoffs, leading a backline that shut down the best offenses in MLS. There are two things you want out of every player: Stay healthy, play with consistency. That’s exactly what Chanot gave to New York.
What to improve 2022:
Never the speediest of center backs, Chanot lost a step in the 2021 regular season. While he found an extra gear in the postseason, he can’t turn back the hands of time and be expected to match the pace of the 22-year-olds on opposing teams. He’ll have to rely on his positioning more than ever, and draw on his extensive experience to put himself in the right place at the right time. This is the year for him to become the thinking man’s center-back.
What to expect in 2022:
Once a sure thing in the matchday lineup, Chanot’s starting spot is no longer guaranteed after the signing of center-back Thiago Martins from sister club Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan. The 26-year-old Brazillian, described as “fast, strong, and technically gifted” by sporting director David Lee, was signed as a Designated Player and is expected to be played. The 30-year-old Callens is in the prime of his career, and unlikely to be benched.
That leaves Chanot.
It could be that manager Ronny Deila chooses a back three, with Chanot taking the center or the right. But Deila tends to favor a back four, which might leave Chanot out of the lineup. It isn’t often that a reigning MLS-champion central defender has his spot challenged for in the next offseason, and if fans want Big Max to stay in the side, they should expect the same fight and consistency that helped win the title.
More 2022 Player Previews: