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2023 Player Preview: Tony Alfaro

The central defender will be a crucial depth piece in a defensive line that’s reeling from Alex Callens decamping to Girona FC

But how will Tony look in sky blue?
Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy

Tony Alfaro

Position: Center-Back
Age: 29
2022 MLS Season: 18 appearances, 9 starts, 936 minutes
Key Stat: $89,515 in guaranteed compensation last season

What went right in 2022:

A 29-year-old journeyman center-back who spent the last seven years bouncing between MLS and the USL (plus a single game in Liga MX for CD Guadalajara), Tony Alfaro joined New York City from DC United, a dysfunctional club where everything that can go wrong does go wrong. DC United was the dumpster fire team in MLS last year, with the most losses (21), the fewest points (27), the most goals allowed (71), and the worst goal differential (-35) in the league. You know you’re in trouble when San Jose Earthquakes are looking down at you.

Alfaro made regular appearances in that leaky back line, playing in 18 games and logging 936 minutes. He was also a regular starter in 2021, when DC United were merely not good enough: They missed the playoffs by one point, and had a middling goal differential of +2. That year he featured in 25 games and started 21 of those, and even managed to score a goal and log an assist.

Let’s be frank: That’s not bad for a player with a guaranteed compensation of just $89,515 in 2022. That’s sign-you-from-the-academy money, or maybe what you pay a third-string backup, not the salary of a regular starter. Alfaro made only marginally more than the $85,444 NYCFC paid to Vuk Latinovich, a center-back who never fully earned the trust of head coaches Nick Cushing or Ronny Deila, and who was left on the bench in favor of midfielder Alfredo Morales or right-back Tayvon Gray playing out of position and slotting into the central defense. No matter how you parse Alfaro’s performances, he brought good value to his club last year.

What to improve:

Alfaro is an iffy defender according to FBref, which is a bit of a problem for a center-back. He has not-great numbers for Tackles Won (35th percentile), Interceptions (46th percentile), and Clearances ( 21st percentile). As the t-shirt says, “Pobody’s Nerfect.”

Those poor numbers could owe something to playing for DC United, or they could just be numbers. But Alfaro needs to become solid defensively if he’s to find regular playing time at NYCFC. The back line just lost the talismanic Alex Callens to Girona FC, and if the club is going to make a go of it with Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins the top choices for the Starting XI then they’ll need Alfaro to step in when the inevitable injuries throw off the lineup card.

What to expect in 2023:

Alfaro’s FBref numbers indicate he’s a strong passer and decent dribbler versus other center-backs. Those skills will serve him well in the Cushing system of attacking, possession-based soccer that moves the ball across the defensive line to open up space in the rest of the field. Alfaro rates highly in Passes into the Final Third (81st percentile), Passes into the Penalty Area (87th percentile), and Progressive Passes (85th percentile).

The fact is, Alfaro doesn’t need to do much to be regarded as an improvement over Latinovich — avoid lashing in an own goal and he’ll be good. Even then, we bet we’ll see Alfaro make a handful of starts and maybe a dozen or more appearances to help with squad rotation, and that playing time will allow Chanot and Thiago Martins to stay healthy for the high-pressure games that matter most. You can’t ask much more of him than to hold his own when he’s on the field.

2023 NYCFC Player Previews

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