Know Your Foe- NYCFC

HISTORY

New York City Football Club, or just NYCFC, were the twentieth expansion team in Major League Soccer and played their first year in 2015 alongside Orlando City SC.

Claudio Reyna, who served as the club’s first Sporting Director, immediately swung big in the transfer market, bringing in huge legends of the game as their first three Designated Players: David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo.

They also hired Real Salt Lake legend Jason Kreis as the team’s first-ever manager. While Kreis saw significant success with Salt Lake, joining NYCFC just after nearly capturing a second MLS Cup for the Utah side, he never lifted off with NYCFC.

In a difficult inaugural season, they finished with the second-lowest points total in the league, costing Kreis his job after only one year.

The club then hired Patrick Vieira as head coach to turn the ship around. Notably for Charlotte FC fans, Christian Lattanzio came in with the Frenchman as assistant coach.

Behind a dogmatic possession-based style, NYCFC qualified for the playoffs in 2016 before falling in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The next year saw the club as runners-up for the 2017 Supporters’ Shield but again losing in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The dramatic difference seen as the club moved past 2015 stemmed from a significant shift in roster building strategy. While Villa enjoyed a renaissance, scoring 23 goals to win the 2016 Golden Boot, their other aging stars struggled. The club shifted to a younger transfer strategy, bringing in Maxi Moralez and Alexander Ring as new DPs and phasing out Lampard (departed after 2016 season) and Pirlo (retired after 2017 season).

Young stars such as Jack Harrison and James Sands became the norm as the Club continued to retool in search of an MLS Cup. However, head coach Patrick Vieira departed for Nice in France midway through 2018 (along with Lattanzio). Longtime Pep Guardiola assistant Dome Torrent replaced him, but he was only able to lead the side to another Eastern Conference semi-final playoff defeat.

2019 saw a club-record season, with 64 points landing them in second place of the Supporters’ Shield standings behind LAFC. However, the club could still not get over the playoff hump, falling in the Eastern Conference semi-finals yet again.

During this time, Sporting Director Claudio Reyna left the club for Austin FC and was replaced in-house by David Lee and Dome Torrent also departed, with Ronny Deila brought in as his replacement to begin 2020.

The pandemic-interrupted 2020 season was a busy but largely unsuccessful one, with defeats in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League (to Mexican side Tigres UANL) and of the MLS is Back Tournament (to eventual champions Portland Timbers). They also lost in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs upon the resumption of the season.

Last year in 2021, despite a year in which NYCFC had a relatively poor regular season, they finally conquered their playoff demons behind Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos. NYCFC played four of their five playoff matches on the road and triumphed in a penalty shootout over the Portland Timbers in the final to lift their first-ever MLS Cup.

UNIQUE OWNERSHIP

NYCFC are a key part of City Football Group (CFG), which also own Premier League giants Manchester City, La Liga side Girona, and Uruguayan club Montevideo City Torque, among others. This enables the club to tap into a global scouting network and player transfer strategy between sister clubs.

The most recent example of the advantages of this ownership system is in the purchase, development, and transfer of star striker Taty Castellanos.

Castellanos originally joined on loan from fellow CFG club Montevideo City Torque in 2018. NYCFC made the transfer permanent at the end of the 2018 season and the Uruguayan went on to score 53 goals with 19 assists in 116 appearances.

After winning the Golden Boot and MLS Cup in 2021, NYCFC were looking to move Castellanos to the next step of his career: Europe. Since they were not receiving offers they felt met their valuation of the striker, he joined another CFG club – this time Girona in Spain’s La Liga – on loan in the hopes that good performances there will boost his transfer value.

This ease of player movement between sister clubs, shared financial resources, and pooled scouting efforts all give NYCFC a unique advantage in the transfer market.

This multi-club ownership model – first truly pioneered by Red Bull – is becoming increasingly common in the world game and in MLS, with NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls taking full advantage. Other examples include Stan Kroenke, who owns the Colorado Rapids alongside Arsenal, and Joe Mansueto, who owns Chicago Fire FC alongside Swiss club FC Lugano.

PRESENT

New York City FC have been a consistent force at or near the top of the MLS table since 2016, but they have also been marked by consistent player and staff movement.

This year has been no different, as the club rocketed out to first place in the Eastern Conference while weathering two key departures: head coach Ronny Deila (departed for Standard Liege and replaced internally by Nick Cushing) and the aforementioned Taty Castellanos (loaned to Girona).

Despite the departures, NYCFC have kept mostly steady near the top of the East with a 4-4-4 record since Cushing took over. However, they have recently slipped to third place after two straight 3-2 losses to start the month of August.

KEY PLAYERS

Maxi Moralez: The 35-year-old diminutive attacking midfielder is still pulling the strings at a high level, registering a goal and seven assists in 20 appearances so far. Stopping the Argentine from playing the key pass will be important to keeping a clean sheet.

Maxime Chanot: With All-Star center back Alexander Callens out due to an MCL injury, Chanot will likely be the veteran NYCFC turns to. He has played in only 13 games thus far, but his performance in place of Callens will be important.

Talles Magno: The uber-talented young Brazilian has had a career year this year, scoring six goals and adding eight assists. After the departure of Castellanos, Magno will be one of the main pieces carrying the City attack.