It’s January, a time for resolutions, a time for gym memberships and diets and savings plans and good intentions. A time in which we see things – mostly ourselves – not as we are but as we wish we were, and tag words to our dreams in an effort to point us towards them, in an effort to make them real. In this way resolutions are not unlike wishes. So it is in that spirit (and because no one really cares about MY resolutions), that I present my 3 wishes for NYCFC on the cusp, coincidentally, of season number three.
Wish You Were Here: Three Wishes for NYCFC in 2017
Wish #1 – That we lead the league in Goal Differential
You may, as I have over of the past couple of years, say that we need to shore up our back line. You may even, as I have, penned serio-comic open letters to highly celebrated thugs, I mean, center fulls, in an effort to woo them to Yankee Stadium. But in the final analysis, those are tactics. And tactics are employed to serve a larger aim, which is this: you win soccer matches by scoring more goals than you allow (I can’t believe you people are paying for analysis like this).
In 2016, NYCFC ‘s goal differential was +5, an improvement of +14 over 2015. Not surprisingly they made the playoffs. And while top goal differential is not a guarantor of post season hardware, it is an indicator of a solid, well-organized, reliable, and dangerous team. Top differential in 2016? New York Red Bulls, followed by LA Galaxy followed by FC Dallas – all teams that led the league in that category in 2015 too.
Plus, you know that Patrick Vieira wants to attack. He wants young attacking players. Like Jack Harrison, like Miguel Camargo, like Sean Okoli, like Ronald Matarrita. Or slightly older guys who play like that, like David Villa, Tommy McNamara and RJ Allen. I do not think Vieira actually knows the English words “Park the Bus.” Hell, I’m not sure he knows the French or Senagalese or whatever other languages he speaks, words for them. NYCFC are built to score a lot of goals. How they figure out how to not let in a lot of goals is why Mr. Vieira is paid the big bucks to roam the sideline. And why I am paid the somewhat smaller bucks to watch him do it.
Wish #2 – No injuries. None. Nada. Zilch. Zip.
I know, I know: boring. Like asking Santa Claus for underwear. You can’t believe I’m wasting one of my three wishes for NYCFC on this. But last season they handcrafted a solid starting XI. And they had three, maybe four decent subs to choose from in the second half. But they are not what anyone would call a deep team. And should they lose a player for two or three months – or heaven forbid more than one – they would find themselves in a world of, well, hurt.
And anyway, the team has been down this road already. No Frank Lampard for most of the 2015 and half of the 2016 season. And no Jack Harrison for the first third of the 2016 season. Or Khiry Shelton for much of the 2015 season. Or Tony Taylor for essentially the entire 2015 season. Now you may argue that losing Giovinco didn’t sink Toronto FC. And that somehow the Seattle Sounders actually improved after Clint Dempsey got injured. Fine. Argue that. I still don’t want any of our guys to spend any time on IR. And I can’t believe you would either.
Wish #3 – That we advance at least 1 round in the Open Cup
Wait, what? Advance in the Open Cup? Aren’t I the guy who was making the case last month that not qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League was a good thing? Because it allowed our players to focus on the MLS season and kept them – and our coaching staff – from being distracted by the travel, fatigue and player rotation? Why wouldn’t the same thing apply to the Open Cup?
Because on the one hand, the travel will be infinitely less onerous. An overnight to Rochester is in no way comparable to the red eye out of San Salvador. And on the other hand, all the arguments people made about why NYCFC should be in the Champions League are much more valid in this context. Especially those around giving second team and younger players a shot. Plus you have an infinitely better chance of winning with those players in the first round of the Open Cup than you do in any round of the Champions League. And finally because of course hardware is nice. And while winning the MLS Cup before our bovine brethren across the river do is the ultimate goal, winning the Open Cup before them wouldn’t suck either.
But winning the whole thing is a long way off for a team that’s been bounced from the Cup the past two years by a team that currently barely has a league in which to play. So I’ll not be greedy and simply ask that City make it out of the first round. Sure that will create headaches as they try to find a home pitch (although I would pay cash money to watch Claudio Reyna and crew explain to the Yankee front office that, yeah, we need the Yankees to switch a home game with someone because we need the field that day). But it’ll be worth it.
Will any of my three wishes for NYCFC come true? Well, they probably have a better chance than any of my New Years Resolutions.