New York, NY — When searching the internet for predictions on who will win the MLS title this year, a few teams commonly came up in articles. The defending champion Seattle Sounders, Eastern Conference champions Toronto FC, and the always consistent FC Dallas were amongst the favorites to win the title this year. Despite only being in their third year of existence, NYCFC needs to be put amongst the favorites this year as they are certainly in the mix (without Mix) to bring home the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
For relatively new teams in any sports league, a title is not commonly expected in the first few seasons. However, that theory cannot be applied to NYCFC as their recent success and upgraded roster release them from being discussed as a ‘new club.’ When World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo and David Villa head up your roster along with some of the best young talents in the league (Jack Harrison and Jonathan Lewis) results are expected to follow.
To clarify before continuing, a title should not be expected for NYCFC. However, being in the playoffs and putting up a fight should be. Head coach Patrick Vieira is one of if not the best young coach in the league, as his soccer IQ and personable relation with his players is almost unrivaled amongst coaches in Major League Soccer. Along with bringing these quality attributes to the field, Vieira also brings in something else, a unique European style of play.
Last year we witnessed NYCFC make huge strides in learning how to play possession soccer throughout the entirety of the field. Despite seeing strides made, there were many shortcomings that can’t be overlooked, as NYCFC often would collapse in games (ex: 7-0 loss against the Red Bulls) when teams pressed high up the field. But, when effective, NYCFC looked and was the best attacking team in the league. If they are able to learn from their mistakes from this past year, NYCFC could continue to cause havoc for opposing defenses and they have the players to do it.
Earlier this morning, NYCFC announced their 26-man roster for the upcoming 2017 season. Most notably, former USMNT-regular Mix Diskerud was not included, as NYCFC used their one offseason buyout on him. This should come to no surprise for NYCFC fans, and a bit of relief, that Diskerud is no longer with the team after he hinted about his exit earlier this week on his Instagram.
Although Diskerud is leaving the ‘Big Apple,’ NYCFC has the best roster in its brief history. With a balance of experienced players, players in their prime, and up and coming youngsters, Vieira has everything he could want in a team. The troublesome back-four from a year ago has been upgraded and the goalkeeper spot has been upgraded as well with the addition of former Chicago Fire goalkeeper, Sean Johnson. With an almost complete team this year, getting to the playoffs is a must for the club in their third year.
There is too much talent on NYCFC this season for them not to make the playoffs. Plus, having another year under the direction of Vieira will only make the team better as they continue to establish their possession play style. The only problem that can be foreseen for the team is possible injuries and, most notably, is NYCFC beating themselves again.
Since the full 26-man team hasn’t been together for more than two weeks, it will take awhile for the team to gel and mesh. During this time, the club and its fans need to be patient as short-term problems do not necessarily translate into long-term failure. In saying that, NYCFC needs to solidify a Starting XI as early in the season as possible and then stick with that lineup (and formation) throughout the season. The biggest part of their downfall in the playoffs was the tinkering Vieira did in the Starting XI and formation. Therefore, the club needs to learn from their mistakes to prevent a thrashing at the hands of a 5-foot 5-inch Italian.
2017 should be the best season yet for NYCFC. In reality, NYCFC should aim to make a run in the MLS playoffs along with developing the young talent that they have. Come October, expect to see the ‘Boys in Blue’ out there on the field competing for their first MLS title.
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