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2023 Player Preview: Braian Cufré

The loaned-in Argentinian fullback arrives looking for playing time and to solidify NYCFC’s left side, though he faces ample competition for minutes

Bienvenido, pibe.
Photo via screenshot from RCD Mallorca’s official YouTube.

Braian Cufré

Position: Left-Back, Left Wingback
Age: 26
2022-2023 La Liga Season: 5 appearances, 2 starts, 220 minutes played, 82.6% pass completion rate
Key Stat: Made the Starting XI just 36% since moving to Europe

What went right in 2022:

It’s hard to paint a particularly positive picture of Cufré’s time in Spain. He moved to Europe from Vélez Sarsfield from his native Argentina back in September 2020, with RCD Mallorca paying a reported €1.2m for 60% of the player’s rights. Cufré’s first season in Spain remains his best, as he successfully helped Los Bermellones win promotion out of the Spanish second division while making 32 appearances (21 starts), and chipping in one goal and two assists.

Despite the initial success, Cufré has twice now been deemed not good enough to help Mallorca in La Liga. He spent the 2021-2022 campaign on loan to Málaga back in the Segunda División, yet failed to carve out a regular role for himself. Cufré started just 16 of 44 matches in all competitions for a Málaga team that finished 18th and with the third-worst goal difference in the league, just two points clear of relegation.

Mallorca seemed to give Cufré another shot to break through in La Liga this season. He stayed with the squad through the summer transfer window and looked poised to compete for minutes at left-back with 34-year-old Jaume Costa. That competition didn’t go Cufré’s way, as he made just eight appearances for Mallorca, seeing a mere 486 minutes of game action across all competitions before being loaned to New York City FC.

What to improve:

Playing time seems like Cufré’s biggest area of improvement. He simply hasn’t gotten a consistent run of games as a starter in Spain, and hasn’t been able to break through in the country’s top flight. As stated in his Key Stat above, Cufré has started just 36% of his club’s matches since moving to Spain. Now that he’s set for a season in MLS with NYCFC, it will be up to Cufré to show that the skill with the ball at his feet that he regularly displayed in Argentina is still to be found in his play.

In Spain, he didn’t show that he could consistently create for himself or his teammates with the ball at his feet, notching just a solitary goal and two assists over three full seasons. He seems capable of more, particularly when you see him score an Anton Tinnerholm-esque screamer like this from his 2018 season back in Argentina with Vélez.

What to expect in 2023:

Cufré seems in line for a long look as the starting left-back, or left wingback, in whatever ends up being Nick Cushing’s preferred system. He’s a well-paid European import (per Capology, he was on an annual salary of over $500,000 with Mallorca) with lots of professional experience split between two highly competitive soccer nations. The player’s background, and NYCFC’s investment in taking him on loan with an option to buy, sure make him seem like someone who would be penciled into the club’s ideal Starting XI. It will be up to Cufré to show that he’s the clear week-in, week-out choice at left-back over the likes of Malte Amundsen or Kevin O’Toole.

NYCFC hit the jackpot when they signed another South American defender from Spain’s second tier back in 2017, and while it’s unfair to expect Cufré to replicate the success of a club legend like Alexander Callens, the blueprint does exist. It will now be up to Cufré to try to take MLS by storm and restabilize a career that’s gone slightly off the rails since he left his home country.

A year ago, both of NYCFC’s fullback positions were weak spots that were short on depth — that is no longer the case thanks to the addition of players like Cufré and Mitja Ilenič, but that newfound depth also makes things extra competitive. Will Cufré be able to win the competition for playing time here in New York City, or will his time in MLS mirror his underwhelming stint in Spain? It’s a question of huge importance for both Cufré’s career, and NYCFC’s chances of competing in 2023 with a rebuilt defense following the winter player exodus.

2023 NYCFC Player Previews

• Tony Alfaro
• Malte Amundsen
• Luis Barraza
• Maxime Chanot
• Maximo Carrizo
• Matt Freese
• Tayvon Gray
• Justin Haak
• Mitja Ilenič
• Kevin O’Toole
• Samuel “Kwaku” Owusu
• Keaton Parks
• Matías Pellegrini
• Gabriel Pereira
• Talles Magno
• Thiago
• Thiago Martins