The 2023 MLS season is almost upon us, which means it’s time for our first Reader Poll of the year! The question this time is a simple one: How do you think the Boys in Blue will do this season?
But before we get right into voting, let’s back up a bit and give some context to the question. “How will we do?” is a difficult inquiry, because it first depends on how you define success for New York City FC.
In the club’s early years, simply making a playoff appearance would’ve felt like a solid campaign, but that is no longer the case. You could say that NYCFC are a victim of their own success: Being 2021 MLS Cup champions and 2022 Eastern Conference finalists set a sky-high bar for the upcoming campaign.
Under more normal circumstances, I would say that should remain the case. If we’ve been good enough to be title contenders in each of the last two seasons, then that should remain the expectation, right? Well, these are not quite “normal” circumstances.
If you’ve been following the club this offseason, you’re aware that the squad that set this metaphorical bar so high in years past is not exactly the same one that will take the field in 2023. The departures of Sean Johnson, Alex Callens, Maxi Moralez, Nicolás Acevedo, Anton Tinnerholm, and Héber have rocked the club, leaving enormous holes in the squad for sporting director David Lee to fill. This comes right off the back of New York City struggling to fully replace the loss of their main goal threat, Taty Castellanos, who left midway through last season.
How does losing seven of your most talented players in less than a year affect your standing as a title contender? I’ll tell you this much, it certainly doesn’t help. But I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom for the Pigeons either, since I think we actually still have quite a talented roster despite the exodus.
While such departures would decimate most MLS squads, I genuinely think NYCFC were about as well-prepared for this scenario as they could’ve been. This is by virtue of the club’s impressive young talent pool, and by the fact that most of the players let go were past their prime.
For example, while we lost a 35-year-old Moralez, it looks like (as per recent reports) we’ll be keeping 23-year-old Santi Rodriguez, a younger and more athletic player who can play the No 10 role vacated by Maxi — and play it damn well. The same is true at the goalkeeper position, where we’ve lost a 33-year-old Johnson, and look to be filling his position with either 26-year-old Luis Barraza, or 24-year-old Matt Freese.
Plus, this is an NYCFC team that (when fully fit) was an unbelievably deep squad by MLS standards last season. While injuries made the squad feel quite thin at times, the fact that they could lose Taty, Maxi, and Héber in just a matter of months but still roll out the attacking options of Talles Magno, Rodriguez, Gabriel Pereira, Thiago , and former designated player Matías Pellegrini is extremely impressive.
And, there is the very likely scenario that NYCFC could dip into the transfer market and continue to strengthen the squad as the season progresses. While it seems unlikely that the Starting XI will be fully assembled by the season opener on February 25th, NYCFC have been known to bolster the squad midseason, with players like Pereira coming in halfway through last season, and Talles Magno and Thiago both arriving around halfway through the 2021 campaign. So, bar the City Football Group scandal completely hindering all transfer activity for NYCFC, I’d say the club will almost certainly strengthen this side at some point before the business end of this campaign.
But will the mid-season signings be enough? Is the young talent talented enough to contend? Or will the outgoings simply leave the squad too vulnerable, lacking the experience and stewardship needed to reach that bar set by our recent success?
Here’s where you decide. Cast your vote in the poll below, and let us know in the comments why you voted the way you did.
How will NYCFC finish this season?
This poll is closed
Fail to make playoffs
Narrowly miss playoffs
Make playoffs, but exit early
Make playoffs, and make a deep run
Make playoffs, and win MLS Cup
The poll will close on Friday, February 24, at 5 pm ET.