Welcome to the latest edition of Hot Take, in which a Hudson River Blue contributor takes a highly subjective stand on a topic and gives you their deeply biased opinion.
That said, it’s entirely possible that NYCFC sporting director David Lee made a deal and is yet to announce it. The club didn’t announce their two biggest signings this year until after the paperwork was filed, the visas approved, the I’s dotted, and the T’s crossed: We learned about Thiago Martins and Gabriel Pereira only when they were on their way to New York City. No Drama David keeps his cards close to his chest.
Still, it seems unlikely that New York City signed a player in this window, which leaves Thiago Martins and Pereira as the only significant additions to the roster this year. The math doesn’t add up. NYCFC brought in just two important players? After losing six key members of the Senior Team? Taty Castellanos (loan), James Sands (loan), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (expansion draft), Jesús Medina (end of contract), and Gudi Thórarinsson (end of contract) are all gone, and it’s unclear when Keaton Parks (injury) will rejoin the squad.
There’s an argument to be made that NYCFC already had many of the replacement pieces already in place, that the club could afford to lose Taty because they already have Héber and Talles Magno, Tajouri-Shradi because of Thiago, Thórarinsson because of Malte Amundsen. Fair enough. But a midfield that flourished last year with the additions of Alfredo Morales in the offseason and Santiago Rodríguez in June is now laboring without Sands and Parks. The recent elevation of Justin Haak to the Senior Team is a good thing, and we believe his talent will grow, but one promising NYCFC II player simply can’t offset the loss of two of the best midfielders in MLS.
The fact is this depleted NYCFC midfield desperately needs help. In last Saturday’s 0-0 draw against CF Montréal, the attack put in the worst performance in the history of the club: One shot, zero on target. The xG was 0.05. An NYCFC squad already suffering without Parks was also without Alfredo Morales, and the midfield couldn’t hold the ball in the middle of the pitch, never mind move it into the attacking third.
Really, that’s the problem: While the full-strength squad still has some bite, this NYCFC midfield has lost their depth, and is one twisted ankle away from becoming irrelevant. Lose Morales, or Rodríguez, or Maxi Moralez, and there’s nobody on the bench who could fully take their place. New York City’s fragile lineup needs help, but it doesn’t look like any is on the way.
The stats junkies will tell us to cool our jets, that NYCFC are off to their best start in club history with 42 points after 22 games — last year New York City had just 34 points after 22 games and won the MLS Cup, and in the high water mark 2019 season had 38 points after 22 games and came in second place overall.
But the club added ten players in each of those years, including Rodríguez, Talles Magno, Morales, Thiago, and Amundsen in 2021, and Casetallnos, Héber, Alexandru Mitriță, and Parks in 2019. Those squads evolved and grew stronger. This one added just three players in all, and is in danger of regressing.
The collapse hasn’t happened yet, and there is some hope: This year’s squad has the strongest defense in the history of the club, and the Brazilian-led attack could still find their groove. But the flat attacking performance against Montréal could be a sign of what’s to come.
Maybe it’s time to reset our expectations, and celebrate clean sheets instead of goals. NYCFC might have flunked the transfer window, but the club could still get a passing grade on the season.