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2023 Player Preview: Matías Pellegrini

The 22-year-old logged only 70 minutes after joining NYCFC in August, but we’re getting the good feels that this could be a breakout year for the Argentine winger

Good bag.
Courtesy Katie Cahalin, courtesy

Matías Pellegrini

Position: Left Wing, Attacking Midfield
Age: 22
2022 MLS Season: 6 appearances, 0 starts, 70 minutes
Key Stat: 2, the number of times NYCFC claimed him off waivers in 2022

What went right in 2022:

When New York City FC claimed Matías Pellegrini off waivers the first time, in August of last year, it seemed like both a shrewd move (getting a highly-regarded 21-year-old Argentine winger valued at €4 on a free is good business), and a total head-scratcher: The club needed to reinforce its badly depleted midfield more than add more unrealized potential to the attack.

When NYCFC claimed Pellegrini off waivers again in December, after declining his option just a few weeks earlier, it was clear that the club thinks highly enough of him to put a ring on it. So what if the team needs midfielders more than ever after losing Maxi Moralez and Santiago Rodríguez, and sending Cacha Acevedo to Esport Clube Bahia on loan? It’s not as if NYCFC are prioritizing wingers over signing the No 10 the team so desperately needs – you should be able to shore up more than one position at once.

Why all this talk about trades and rosters? Because Pellegrini was barely incorporated into the squad he joined in August, logging just 59 minutes over four games in the regular season and 11 minutes in two games in the playoffs — there simply isn’t enough tape to analyze. Is he good? Almost good? Great? Who knows. What can you say about a player who came for the final five minutes in the 2-1 win over Orlando City, then played one minute in the 3-0 playoff win over Miami?

One thing to like about Pellegrini is his look: He has the squeezable cheeks and light blond locks of a 19th-century European boy-prince, but the build of an elite athlete. He’s a Baby Face Killer, or he could be if he proves to be as lethal as the club will need him to be if NYCFC are to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.

What to improve:

Who knows? (See above.)

What to expect in 2023:

We hope that great things will come from NYCFC’s decision to claim, decline, then reclaim Pellegrini. Maybe it’s because he’s a blank canvas, and we can project all of our hopes and dreams onto him. But we sincerely believe that he could deliver the goods for one simple reason: Head coach Nick Cushing believes in him.

To be slightly more specific, Cushing rates him as a highly technical player with a strong work rate, and we’re bullish that a full preseason under the club’s new coach will integrate him into an attack that’s young and hungry. The best-case scenario is one that he follows the path laid down by right-winger Gabriel Pereira. The right-winger was underutilized at Corinthians in 2021, scoring just two goals and logging one assist in 1,326 minutes, but then he went on to net eight goals and two assists for NYCFC in 1,345 minutes in 2022. Remember, Pereira joined the club in March, and didn’t establish himself as a starter until May. NYCFC can bring out the best in some players.

Pellegrini, a 22-year-old right-footed winger who plays on the left, should round out a juicy forward line with Pereira, a 21-year-old left-footed who plays on the right, and Talles Magno, a 20-year-old who’s already one of the best dribblers in MLS. We hope that Pellegrini will get lots of minutes, and score lots of goals. The Baby Face Killer nickname is to claim, but first he has to earn it.

2023 NYCFC Player Previews

• Kevin O’Toole
• Samuel “Kwaku” Owusu
• Keaton Parks
• Talles Magno
• Thiago
• Thiago Martins