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2024 NYCFC Player Preview: Mounsef Bakrar

The 23-year-old striker made a promising 2023 debut and could be considered a breakout candidate for 2024, but Jovan Mijatović's arrival complicates things.

This could be a big year for Talles Magno (left) and Mounsef Bakrar (right) | Courtesy
Name: Mounsef Bakrar
Position: Forward
Age: 23
Key Stat: 0.62 – the non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes produced by Bakrar across his 10 league appearances in 2023: That 0.62 npxG/90 would have ranked second among all MLS players last season, had Bakrar played enough games to qualify

Mounsef Bakrar arrived mid-summer in 2023 and had a positive impact on the New York City FC attack. He looked to be the aggressive, active striker the team so badly missed in the early part of the season, and the team's attack got more direct and slightly more effective with the 23-year-old Algerian installed as the new No 9. 

Four goals scored in 13 appearances across all competitions looked like a solid start, but Bakrar also underperformed his expected goal-scoring stats in his 754 MLS minutes played in 2023. 

That he only scored three league goals while generating 5.8 expected goals, as well as his aforementioned high npxG/90, could make you either consider him a breakout candidate heading into 2024, or someone who needs to improve his finishing in the new season.

However you assess Bakrar, and however moved or unmoved you are by all the goals he's scored this preseason, his 2024 role has been thrown into some uncertainty with the arrival of Jovan Mijatović. 

The heralded 18-year-old striker is certain to have an effect on Bakrar's season, though that effect remains uncertain, and how Nick Cushing chooses to deploy his two strikers becomes one of the early 2024 lineup decisions to watch. 

Solid start

Bakrar seemed to acclimate quickly to life with NYCFC, scoring in his first start with his new club in the Leagues Cup group-stage blowout win over Toronto FC. 

He played a more direct style than anyone New York City had tried at striker prior to his debut on July 24, a run-behind-the-defense forward who was a willing target for long passes. 

For a second, it looked like the master plan for a late-season NYCFC rebound might actually come together. Bakrar scored his first MLS goal in a win over CF Montréal that would jumpstart a five-match NYCFC unbeaten run, a run in which the Algerian striker scored all three of his league goals.

That first MLS goal was something of a perfect encapsulation of what both Bakrar and defender Birk Risa added to NYCFC when they joined during the summer window. (If you can overlook the silly Cristiano Ronaldo framing of the below YouTube highlight, it's a fun goal to re-watch.)

Room for finishing improvement

Bakrar took a lot of shots in a lot of his appearances with NYCFC, but his accuracy left something be desired. Bakrar got into the right areas and was in prime scoring positions plenty of times during his limited MLS minutes in 2023, he just too often did not hit his intended target.

According to, Bakrar's 3.22 total shots per 90 minutes have him in the 82nd percentile of forwards in their Men's Next 14 group of leagues (think MLS, plus Liga MX, the English Championship, others) for which they have available data. 

Unfortunately for Bakrar and for NYCFC, the striker's percent of shots on target, 29.6%, places him in the 11th percentile of forwards in that same player pool. 

To refer back to the same statistic for a third time, again according to, Bakrar was actually responsible for two of the 10 highest non-penalty expected goal numbers produced in any single NYCFC match since the 2018 season. 

While that seems impressive, Bakrar failed to score in both the matches in which he produced his highest expected goal rates, NYCFC's 0-2 home loss to Minnesota United on August 20, and the disappointing 1-1 draw with Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale on September 30. He took 11 shots in those two matches and put just two of them on target, letting some glorious scoring chances go to waste in each.

The Jovan Mijatović question

Preseason for NYCFC has been, if nothing else, The Mounsef Bakrar Show. He's scored five goals, seeming to benefit from Nick Cushing asking his front line to do more high-pressing than they did a year ago, as a few of those Bakrar goals were direct results of poor opponent giveaways deep in their own defensive zones. 

In a vacuum, all the preseason goal-scoring might only bolster the case for Bakrar to break out and cross the 10-goal mark in a season for the first time in his career. Outside the vacuum, Bakrar now faces a major challenge for minutes in the form of Mijatović, who did not leave Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade to sit on the bench in MLS. 

Nick Cushing has not had his teams play with two strikers very often, so Bakrar would seem to need to get off to a very hot scoring start to continue to hold firmly to a place in the NYCFC Starting XI. 

Given Bakrar's style of play as a direct runner, high-presser, and willing target man, perhaps he could thrive in a second-half substitutes role, an actual legitimately dangerous bench option that might be one of the first players into games when NYCFC are in search of a goal. 

That role could be in Bakrar's future if Mijatović is as advertised and quickly lives up to his high price tag, but it also might not be. After all, Bakrar is going to get a head start in 2024—Mijatović only just signed his contract and is still, as of the eve of Match Day 1, dealing with work visa issues. 

Mijatović's presence poses its own questions, but the immediate questions Bakrar will have to answer are: Can he be more clinical in front of goal, can he convert more of the chances his teammates create for him in 2024 than he did in his limited 2023 time, and will it be enough for him to keep his spot as a starter?