2017 NYC FC Review
New York City largely solidified their defense last year behind the play of center back Alexander Callens and defensive midfielder Alex Ring. In many other years, they would have contended for the Shield. However, Toronto’s run coupled with late season injury and stadium issues forced the Pigeons to settle for second place and a disappointing early exit in the playoffs.
Offensively, David Villa was a MVP candidate until an injury during international duty saw him sit on the sidelines for about a month. When combined with Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison for the first half of the season, the offense was very dynamic. However, when Harrison and Wallace slumped in the second, Villa’s production was negatively affected.
There are a lot of transactions here, which is surprising for a club that was 2nd in the Shield standing. It starts with waving goodbye to the deadweight of Andre Pirlo and replacing him with winger Jesus Medina in the DP slot.
The biggest departure from the club is one that hasn’t happened yet: Harrison is widely rumored to be on his way to the Premier League by the end of this month. Other fantasy options that have left are RJ Allen (now with Orlando) and Frederic Brillant (Now with DC).
Outside of Medina, the other additions NYCFC could be characterized as depth, but that’s somewhat misleading as all of these players will compete for starting time. It’s also worth noting that with NYCFC having a large number of international players who play for their national team, this depth will be tested frequently during the season. There’s a new backup for Villa, Jo Inge Berget, who NYCFC will hope will allow Vieira to sit Villa earlier in matches. There also is a new winger, Ismael Tajouri, who comes from the Austrian Bundesliga and Vieira’s description of him (power, pace and skill in one) makes me think he will compete with Wallace for minutes. There are three new faces on defense. Saad Abdul-Salaam (from SKC) and Anton Tinnerholm should compete for the starting right back job while Cedrick Hountondji will add center back depth.
Lastly, I’ll note a transaction that didn’t happen. It was expected that Herrera would leave New York at the end of the season but it was revealed that he was on a two year loan, not a one year loan, so the Pigeons will get to enjoy one of the top prospects in Manchester City’s system for another season.
Expected/Predicted Starting XI Picture
I left things mostly unchanged from last year, but Vieira brought in high profile depth to force competition at the weaker areas of the squad, so don’t be surprised if we see this change as camp progresses. Wallace and Tinnerholm are the ones I’m most concerned about, so I’d hesitate to use them in fantasy until we see a few lineups. Everyone else is pretty definite.
Vieira is going to play a 4-3-3, playing out of the back with possession based football. Herrera and Ring form one if not the best defensive midfield in the league, which adds extra protection for the backline and can create opportunities off the turnover they generate and allows the team to push numbers forward with confidence. The key in their offense will be whether Wallace/Tajouri and Medina pose enough of a threat that defenses are forced to pay less attention to Villa.
Closing Fantasy Thoughts and Expectations
Two years of early playoff exits have soured good seasons. With strong depth for a MLS side, it’s time for this team to compete for every trophy available. It seems likely they will be in a three-way dogfight with Atlanta and Toronto for top of the East again but those three are on a much higher tier than the rest of the league in terms of both the Starting XI and their depth.
Two notes of caution: NYC boasts a number of players who will depart on international duty, so playing through those breaks could give us very different looking teams. Second, NYC played almost all of September and October away from Yankee Stadium thanks to the Yankees’ playoff run last year resulting in stadium unavailability, and that could throw a wrench in late season fantasy results.