So far this preseason NYCFC have played four games. A 9-0 victory over Jacksonville University. A 2-2 draw with CS Emelec, of Ecuador. A loss in the Hudson River Derby: NYRB 2, NYCFC 0. Finally, a 3-1 loss to Houston Dynamo in the Desert Diamond Cup. While many new players haven’t joined the team yet, or haven’t been playing, the results still weren’t the best. With that in mind, here are three questions heading into the season.
Three Questions for the 2017 NYCFC Season
Who is the Center Back Pairing?
Once Maxime Chanot arrived last summer, he was paired with Frederic Brilliant for most games. They did not do too well, especially in the playoffs where they let in seven goals in two games. Since the end of the season Jefferson Mena was loaned out, Jason Hernandez was let go, and Ethan White was re-signed. NYCFC also signed Alexander Callens and Yangel Herrera, who can also play defensive midfield.
NYCFC conceded seven goals when playing professional teams this preseason. Brilliant and Chanot have also frequently looked out of place. With all the new arrivals yet to play a full match, center back might not be as big an issue as it seems. However, if they still need time to develop and adapt, NYCFC will need to score a lot of goals to mask their deficiencies.
Who Plays Defensive Midfield?
Last season, Patrick Vieira converted Andoni Iraola to defensive midfield, a good temporary fix. Federico Bravo also shielded the back line when Iraola was absent. However, as both of them departed the club, (Iraola retired and Bravo’s loan ended) NYCFC has holes to fill.
This offseason, NYCFC signed two defensive midfielders, Alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera. Kwame Awuah, a 2017 MLS SuperDraft pick, and James Sands from the academy can also play defensive midfield. Once Mikey Lopez returns from injury he will compete for a spot too. Overall, NYCFC have a lot of options in DM but no clear front runner. Granted, not all players have appeared in games yet so there is till time for a clear front runner to emerge. In addition, it is hard to judge the players when the center backs they are shielding play poorly. Given that Vieira was such an accomplished midfielder he should be able to mold these players into a solid back line shield.
Who is the Starting Goalkeeper?
NYCFC currently have three goalkeepers on their roster after the trade of Josh Saunders. Newly acquired Sean Johnson joins returning players Andre Rawls and Eirik Johansen. Johansen started at the end of the season, and has strong distribution skills. As NYCFC play out of the back, it helps to have a goalie with good footwork. In contrast, Sean Johnson has played 176 MLS games and is not as strong in distribution. However, he is a better distributor than Josh Saunders and is young enough that he could develop those skills. One would assume that these two would battle it out for number one, but Rawls showed that he can play against the Houston Dynamo. The goalkeeper competition will be very interesting for the rest of camp. Whoever emerges victorious from this battle will have a big role to play this season.