New York City FC have finalized another new-but-not-new signing, officially announcing Santiago Rodríguez has rejoined the club on a Designated Player contract. According to the club, he’s available for selection for tomorrow’s match in Chicago against the Fire.
The Uruguayan playmaker is back after seeming to split with NYCFC when his original loan to New York ended on December 31, 2022. After that date, Rodríguez found himself in a game of City Football Group musical chairs. He went back to his parent club, CFG-owned Montevideo City Torque in Uruguay, and seemed poised to spend a season playing back home.
A third CFG club, Esporte Clube Bahia in Brazil, reportedly had eyes on Santi, looking to reunite him with recent NYCFC teammate and fellow Uruguayan Nicolás Acevedo. NYCFC apparently kept negotiating with Rodríguez despite the competing CFG interest, and have now officially secured the services of the player who broke out in 2022, his first full season in MLS.
South American journalist César Luis Merlo was first to report that Santi’s return to NYCFC was a “done deal,” though that was way back on February 10th. It’s been a long, drawn-out process to officially consummate the Santi-NYCFC reunion, with every social media post from the player drawing scrutiny from fans waiting for his rumored NYCFC return to be finalized. Now, he’s fully re-signed and is the club’s new No 10, carrying the lofty expectations that go with Designated Player status.
It’s possible, based on a candid interview he gave to BolaVip, that MLS’s new streaming deal with Apple played at least some part in Rodríguez’s decision to return to New York. So perhaps some thanks are owed to MLS commissioner Don Garber and Apple CEO Tim Cook?
With this situation finally sorted, NYCFC will now slot Rodríguez back into its attack and hope he rediscovers the elite level of chance creation and playmaking he reached last season. In 2022, Rodríguez contributed four goals and 17 assists across the MLS regular season and playoffs, while also being the league’s joint-leader for “big chances created.”
That No 10 role now seems to be Rodríguez’s to claim as his own. Winger Matías Pellegrini looked uncomfortable attempting to play the position in NYCFC’s season-opening loss in Nashville, and the club’s next-best “natural” option for the position, Maximo Carrizo, just turned 15. Rodríguez, much like the newly-reacquired James Sands, also brings with him valuable positional flexibility. Santi regularly appeared as a winger during his first year-and-change in New York, starting at left wing in MLS Cup 2021, and some debate still exists as to which position, winger or CAM, is his best one.
How he lines up when he re-makes his NYCFC debut will be secondary. The fact that both he and Sands are back in MLS as long-term, permanent signings* for NYCFC means the team’s 2023 chances have improved significantly. The roster holes that were created by this winter’s painful cycle of player turnover are increasingly being filled in by NYCFC sporting director David Lee, and now fans will be expecting goals and victories to follow.
* Until there’s a lucrative overseas offer made for either player, of course