Now that the MLS season is in full swing, there’s much that can be dissected especially the new signings helping New York City FC.
New York City Football Club have opened the 2017 MLS season on the front foot, winning six of their opening twelve games and currently holding the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
A potentially season-defining 3-0 victory in Orlando this past week has NYCFC feeling good heading into a tough stretch of games that includes high-flying Atlanta United, defending champion Seattle Sounders, and crosstown rivals New York Red Bulls.
What are the early storylines of the Blues season? For one, David Villa has continued his terrific run in MLS; the reigning MLS MVP has knocked in eight goals thus far, good for third in the league. But we all expected Villa to be dominant and keep banging in goals.
How about Andrea Pirlo? The Maestro has struggled mightily to make a substantial impact, and has seemingly fallen out of favor with head coach Patrick Vieira. Pirlo was a no show against Orlando at Yankee Stadium a month ago, and his time in the Bronx may be running out.
Ultimately, however, it is the new signings made by the NYCFC brass that are defining this season. In particular, five players: Rodney Wallace, Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring, Alexander Callens, and Sean Johnson.
Let’s start with Rodney Wallace. In 11 starts, Wallace has churned in 4 goals and 3 assists, a phenomenal return from the Costa Rican. Wallace is a prime example of a smart MLS signing– not too flashy, but a solid, savvy player who knows how to play in this league.
Wallace is a terrific option down the left flank– his interplay with compatriot Ronald Mattarita was to be expected, but his seamless transition into build up play with Villa and Maxi Moralez has been a joy to watch. Wallace has kept out two of NYCFC’s last three top picks in the draft (Khiry Shelton and Jonathan Lewis) from the starting XI– and for good reason.
Moving on, we focus on Maxi Moralez. The diminutive Argentine has been a terrific designated player signing for NYCFC. The central attacking midfielder has been terrific at playing in between the lines, finding pockets of space, attacking defenders, and creating chances. Moralez already has two goals and five assists in 12 starts.
Moralez is the kind of DP that MLS has been leaning towards recently — not a decorated European legend in the twilight of his career, but a younger, more explosive attacking player that is better suited to the fast-paced style of play in MLS. Moralez has been terrific.
— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) May 22, 2017
Alexander Callens and Sean Johnson have been massive in shoring up NYCFC’s defense, a unit that conceded the most goals of any playoff team a year ago. Callens and Maxime Chanot’s center back partnership has been terrific — each has the ability to control possession and allow the team to build from the back, which is Vieira’s preferred way of playing.
Johnson has also been terrific, and his two huge saves against FC Dallas were enough to preserve a point on the road against the best team in MLS last season, and his presence and veteran leadership have been a huge pick me up for the defense. Johnson has been extremely difficult to beat.
Alexander Ring might be the best signing of the lot, however. MLS.com named Ring in their MLS Team of the Season for the first month, as well as Best Newcomer. His influence goes beyond the stat sheet– Ring has been excellent as a defensive midfielder, protecting the back four and breaking up attacks. His passing ability, stamina, and football IQ have made him a key cog in the midfield. Not only is he an integral part of NYCFC’s passing moves, but he more than makes up for Andrea Pirlo’s defensive deficiencies.
NYCFC were terrific last year, but their new signings, particularly the five outlined in this article, may be enough to catapult them to the top of the MLS mountain.