After New York City FC lifted the 2021 MLS Cup last December, five players left the club via loan deals, expired contracts, and expansion drafts. Now that a little more than six months have passed, we check up on how they’re doing — and we assign a letter grade that assess how each transaction has worked to NYCFC’s advantage.
Following the MLS Cup win, James Sands started an 18-month loan to Scottish side Rangers FC. He never fully broke into Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s starting squad, although he did earn minutes coming off the bench.
That being said, some of those bench minutes happened to come on one of the biggest stages in European football: The Europa League Final. Sands was subbed on in extra time, and was on the field when Eintracht Frankfurt won in penalties. He appeared five times in that Europa League finals run, coming off the bench against Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, and RB Leipzig.
Sands appeared in 14 matches in all competitions, starting in seven of those and playing as both a defensive midfielder and center back. Sands now has a full offseason and season to fit into Van Bronckhorst’s plans, nail down a starting position, and possibly compete for a spot in the USMNT Qatar squad. While the first six months of the loan were most likely not as Sands would have wished, he still has a full year until Rangers decide whether he’ll return to the Bronx or remain in Glasgow.
As for NYCFC, his absence in the midfield was notable early in the season, but Alfredo Morales has grown into the position well. It’s fair to say that the squad has moved on.
Jesús Medina joined CSKA Moscow on a free transfer following MLS Cup. Moscow was average this season, finishing in fifth place in their domestic league and losing in the quarter-final of the Russian cup to rival Spartak Moscow.
Medina was similarly average, appearing a total of 12 times, nine of those starts. In a 6-1 win over Rubin Kazan, Medina both assisted and scored — those were his two only goal contributions, unless you count the time he drew a penalty against Khimki in a 4-2 loss.
The designated player slot that Medina gave up was used to sign center-back Thiago Martins who, after a shaky start, has cemented himself as a starter alongside Alexander Callens. In the attack, Medina’s starting spot has been filled effectively by Talles Magno. Magno’s technical abilities have added another dimension to NYCFC, and has two goals and four assists in 13 matches. By comparison, Medina had nine goals and two assists in 37 matches last season — that was his best year for NYCFC.
Gudi Thorarinsson’s contract wasn’t renewed following the 2021 season, and now plays in the Danish top-flight with Aalborg BK. The left-back made six total appearances since joining Aalborg in late February 2022.
Thorarinsson’s contract is set to expire this summer in July and assuming all roster regulations could be met, NYCFC should look to bring him back. The left back spot has been thin this season with Malte Amundsen missing games, and Chris Gloster filling in. Gloster has made nine appearances and started five games this season, and while he registered both a goal and an assist, he has often looked poor and nowhere near Thorarinsson’s level last season. Fullback should be a priority this summer transfer window for NYCFC sporting director David Lee, and Thorarinson should be at the top of the list.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was selected in the expansion draft by Charlotte FC and then immediately flipped to LAFC for $400,000 in General Allocation Money. Tajouri-Shradi has made five appearances for the Black and Gold, and scored two trademark bangers — one of which was awarded goal of the week.
Gabriel Pereira was brought in from Corinthians to fill Tajouri-Shradi’s spot. The 20-year-old Brazilian winger also scored twice this season, and provides that spark-off-the-bench that Tajouri-Shradi had when he played for NYCFC. Good business for all parties.
Tony Rocha joined Orange County SC in the USL Championship where he now plays alongside former NYCFC striker Sean Okoli. He has eight appearances and started seven of those games. Rocha only appeared seven times last season for the Pigeons, and never played a serious role in the squad.