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2024 NYCFC Player Preview: Keaton Parks

After two injury-shortened seasons, Parks anchored the NYCFC midfield in 2023. Can he add more to the club's revamped attack in 2024?

Name: Keaton Parks
Position: Midfielder
Age: 26
Key Stat: 181 – that's the number of progressive passes completed by Parks during the 2023 MLS season, which led all NYCFC players, per

Keaton Parks played the most minutes of his career in 2023, putting two injury-shortened seasons behind him to anchor the New York City FC midfield. He signed a new long-term contract with NYCFC in January and enters 2024 expected to again set the rhythm in the middle of the pitch. Parks has been reliable, over multiple solid MLS seasons, as an accurate passer and smart in-possession player who helps his NYCFC teams move the ball up the pitch and into dangerous attacking areas. 

Despite the record-high minutes played, Parks didn't increase his numbers in terms of attacking contributions like goals, assists, or goal- and shot-creating actions—might the American midfielder be able to add more in 2024 to a newly-reinforced NYCFC attack? 

Midfield flows through Keaton Parks

Parks had the second-most touches and completed the second-most passes of any NYCFC player in 2023, responsible for navigating possession out from the defense. He thrives in this role because he's such an accurate passer—since coming to MLS in 2019, Parks has never had a pass completion percentage lower than 84% across 9,021 league minutes played. 

He and James Sands are strong passers who NYCFC rely on to regain possession and then efficiently move the ball around while maintaining possession and advancing upfield. Parks and Sands actually ended the 2023 season tied for the team lead in ball recoveries, each with 167. 

When Parks was on in 2023, like he was in the team's 1-1 home draw with Charlotte FC in July at Citi Field, he was neat in his passing while having the ball at his feet a lot, while also helping create opportunities for his NYCFC teammates. That match vs. Charlotte was a best-case Parks game: Keaton completed 84% of the 67 passes he attempted, picked up an assist on Braian Cufré's equalizer goal, created five chances (per Fotmob), and also contributed seven shot-creating actions (per FBref). touch from Parks during NYCFC's 1-1 draw with Charlotte FC, via the Post 90' podcast on YouTube.

More attacking involvement in 2024?

Over the last year, Parks has been in the 86th percentile for the number of touches he takes in the attacking penalty area per 90 minutes played among midfielders playing in what considers the "Men's Next 14" leagues (MLS, Liga MX, Argentine Primera División, plus 11 more competitions).

Yet in 2023, Parks's goal- and shot-creating actions per 90 minutes each hit career lows over his five MLS seasons. He underperformed his expected goals by 1.3 (3.3 xG for the season, but only two MLS goals scored), and had a few too many games in which his steady, accurate passing didn't lead to much attacking progress for Parks or his teammates.

Was this drop more a reflection of the attacking talent he was working with during NYCFC's struggle-fest in 2023, or did Parks lose some of his creative touch? It's easy to expect some 2024 improvement with Parks still in his prime at 26 and now further removed from his blood clot issues, with the added bonus of being able to play a full season with new and still-newish attacking players like Mounsef Bakrar, Julián Fernández, Agustín Ojeda, Hannes Wolf, and (likely) Jovan Mijatović. 

What's in store

Parks looked to, at times, be grinding through his first full, non-injury-interrupted regular season since 2021. He did suffer one ankle injury in the 0-0 draw vs. the Red Bulls in September that cost him late-season game time and allowed Andrés Perea to continue to hum along after being installed in the NYCFC midfield.

Speaking of Perea, since he has re-joined NYCFC and permanently added to the midfield options, Parks and Sands and Justin Haak all face some increased competition for minutes functioning in the team's central midfield. Keaton Parks has been a consistently solid midfielder for NYCFC for years and will be expected to maintain, if not raise, his usual level over another full season. 

Parks mentioned during a recent preseason press conferences that he's always aiming for more goals scored, but that might not be as necessary for NYCFC in 2024, given the other young attacking talent added this winter. If Parks maintains his metronomic presence in the midfield and can build chemistry with the club's new attacking arrivals to set up more shots and more goal chances, he might once again more regularly enter the conversation when the topic turns to the best central midfielders in MLS.