Position: Attacking Midfielder
2021 League Games: 21 games, 9 starts, 968 minutes played
2021 Postseason: 1 game, 0 starts, 19 minutes played
What went right in 2021:
Taty Castellanos might be New York City’s most lethal attacker, but the goal Thiago Andrade scored for New York City FC against DC United on June 27, 2021 was a masterpiece: The box-to-box run ended with him wrong-footing the defender with a nifty inside-of-the-heel cut, then getting his shot off ahead of a sliding second defender. The ball crossed up goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and left a third defender glued to the grass. That the goal was scored in the 95th-minute of a sweltering evening in Harrison, NJ, only added to its majesty.
Let’s relive that moment a couple of dozen more times:
That was the Thiago that NYCFC hoped to see after paying a reported $1.8 million fee when he was signed in April. He made a strong first impression in the Bronx, especially when you consider that he didn’t suit up for the team until late May because of visa issues. In his abbreviated season, Thiago logged four goals, two assists, and nearly one thousand minutes played. Nicely done.
Thiago hardly factored in the postseason, and was limited to one substitute appearance late in NYCFC’s game against New England Revolution. Still, he converted his penalty against Arsenal-bound goalkeeper Matt Turner and contributed to the that cathartic win in NYCFC’s run to the title.
What to improve in 2022:
Despite his minutes, Thiago never felt fully integrated into the team. To put it in scientific terms, the chemistry wasn't there. In part, it’s because the right-footed midfielder tends to play on the left, which is where Castellanos, Santiago Rodríguez, and Talles Magno like to roam—it’s hard to see benching any of those three in his favor.
The good news is that Thiago can play on the right: His goal against United came from a sprint down that side of the field. Now that Jesùs Medina is at CSKA Moscow and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was selected in MLS Expansion Draft then traded to LAFC, Thiago could step up and earn a starting spot for himself. Thiago is more technically gifted than both of those players, but Medina’s linkup play with Castellanos made him the starter of choice in the playoffs, and Tajouri-Shradi’s workrate made him manager Ronny Deila’s pick to come off the bench. Even though Thiago has no real competition on the right, he needs to improve on both counts.
What to expect in 2022:
Will this be the year that Thiago sees regular starts? If he makes the shift to the right and better integrates himself into the team’s style of play, he could become a fixture in the starting eleven. There’s good reason to think he could become a strike partner for Castellanos–or Héber, or Talles Magno, depending on the lineup–and improve upon Medina’s 2021 production of more than 2200 minutes, nine goals, and four assists.
If he doesn’t, he’ll likely remain largely a reserve and sometimes-starter. He’ll see more time on the field than he did in 2021, especially during the wilting summer months, but he’ll unlikely become Deila’s first choice to play on the left ahead of the talent already in place.
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