As 2023 begins, supporters of New York City FC face a lot of uncertainty. The team that won the MLS Cup in 2021 is being dismantled after head coach Ronny Deila, star striker Taty Castellanos, and midfielder Maxi Moralez all said goodbye in 2022.
We can all acknowledge that every championship club eventually faces a rebuilding phase, but before the panic completely settles in, let’s take a look back at 2022 and how successful of a year we truly had.
You can say that I’m holding onto the past, but let’s face it, NYCFC lifting the cup in 2021 was the club’s peak in its short history. Critics of the team consistently claim that New York City are only good because they play on a narrow field inside a ballpark. Truth is City were just good everywhere they went. The Boys in Blue won on the outfield of Yankee Stadium, and on the FieldTurf that is Gillette Stadium, and on the natural grass of Subaru Park, and in the electric atmosphere of Providence Park, the historic home of the Portland Timbers. All in one playoff run.
After celebrating the win back home at New York City Hall, the team looked to continue their winning ways in 2022. NYCFC made a deep run into the CONCACAF Champions League, defeating Costa Rica’s Santos De Guápiles as well as Guatemala’s Comunicaciones FC, before meeting MLS’s Seattle Sounders in the semifinals. Seattle would go on to defeat NYCFC and ultimately win the CCL, however, supporters could identify that New York City FC continued to play better than teams from international countries. Talles Magno was named the Best Young Player of the CCL, and NYCFC’s forward played nearly every minute of the club’s competition, scoring three goals in six games.
Rumors began to circulate that head coach Ronny Deila would be leaving NYCFC. It was confirmed by the club on June 13, 2022, that Deila had departed the club to coach Standard Liège in Belgium. Despite earlier cries for Deila to be let go, Ronny’s coaching tenure remains the most impressive in NYCFC history with a 46-29-15 record. Assistant Coach Nick Cushing was appointed interim head coach. He would eventually be named head coach by the club later in 2022.
Only six weeks would pass before 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner Valetín “Taty” Castellanos would also depart the club, moving to fellow City Football Group club Girona FC in Spain’s La Liga. Supporters spent days trying to convince each other that everything was fine. Castellanos has scored 53 goals and added 19 assists through 116 MLS regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs appearances for New York City FC. To this day, his presence is missed at NYCFC.
On September 14, 2022, NYCFC faced Liga MX’s Atlas FC in the Campeones Cup, an annual test between the previous year’s champions of MLS and Liga MX to see who would be crowned champion between the United States and Mexico. While Atlas FC was performing very poorly, fans of New York City were still concerned about the team’s ability to secure a win while missing their head coach and star striker. In a shocking, yet immensely satisfying result, New York City maintained a clean sheet against Atlas FC and won 2-0, bringing yet another trophy to the club in front of 24,823 supporters at Yankee Stadium.
Three days later, New York City FC continued to prove that New York is blue by sending the New Jersey Red Bulls back home with another L in the second leg of the 2022 edition of the Hudson River Derby.
Despite all the challenges of losing a head coach and key players throughout 2022, NYCFC found themselves in the MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Union for the second year in a row. NYCFC defeated Inter Miami CF as well as CF Montréal to advance into the finals and have an infamous rematch against the Union in Chester, PA. Unfortunately, some poor substitutions during a set piece cost NYCFC the win in the second half of the game. Philadelphia quickly scored three goals against the confused NYCFC defense after the two teams had been deadlocked for nearly sixty minutes. Though the results were not what we would have wanted, it would be a disservice to the boys to say they didn’t do well in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
After the season came to a close, New York City FC supporters were blessed with one final announcement for the year, one that we had been waiting to hear for almost a decade. On November 16, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams, NYCFC players, supporters groups, and front office officials gathered at the Queens Museum in Queens. New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Andrew Kimball stood before the cheering crowd to say, “Today is a joyous day not just for Queens but for New York City, as we announce one of the most ambitious development projects of this generation. The transformation of the Willets Point district into a thriving new neighborhood — focused around 2,500 affordable housing units and a privately financed soccer stadium — is a generational investment in the world’s borough that will bring over $6 billion in economic impact and nearly 16,000 jobs.”
“Homeless FC” will finally have a soccer-specific stadium to call their own, and it will be within the five boroughs of New York City. It will help continue to develop MLS into a destination league for both players and supporters.
NYCFC’s stadium is scheduled to be operational in 2027. I took it upon myself to email NYCFC Brad Sims and voice some rather outlandish requests for our stadium. Mr. Sims’s response was, “I’m very familiar with this one [a hot tub pitchside] as Troyes is one of our CFG clubs. This got A LOT of press! We are going to be vetting all kinds of creative ideas for the stadium for sure and also crowdsourcing ideas!”
It’s time to start daydreaming about what kind of details you would like to see in our new stadium. Personally, one of my favorite small details from any MLS stadium I’ve been to was the Minnesota United FC’s crest on the end of each row of seats in their stadium. It was a classy touch that really personalized the stadium. I would also like to see NYCFC’s stadium embrace the city’s diversity by offering a plethora of local cuisines through small business providers as options for food.
Lastly, New York City FC recently said goodbye to club legend Maxi Moralez and forward Héber. Both players contributed to the 2021 championship and will be missed. Maxi Moralez will live on in my household as I rescued a cat in 2019 and named him Maxi. Thank you, Maxi, for everything you gave to this club. Héber’s smile and overall positive attitude will be missed as well. While Héber’s ACL injury in 2020 led to him missing the remainder of that year and most of 2021, his return to the field led to some colorful goals in the time that it mattered most.
In summary, though we didn’t win the cup again, it was a great year to be an NYCFC supporter. Though 2023 may be a redeveloping year, we will continue to support the club through the best of times and the worst of times.