Postseason Preview: NYCFC by ASA Staff

Article by @thedummyrun

Domènec Torrent is a fraud.

Just four months ago, when he took over New York City Football Club midseason from Patrick Vieira, the Catalan coach was hailed as some kind of tactical savant, fresh off a decade seated at the right hand of Pep the Father Almighty and come down to MLS to save us all. He promised to preserve Vieira’s system, which after all was vaguely modeled on Manchester City’s, and to make only incremental adjustments. He promised to compete for trophies—if not this season, okay, maybe next year. He promised us the pinaple would be pretty.

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Little Things from Week 24: Lodeiro's control, Machado about creating space, and Villa's intelligence by Harrison Hamm

Nicolas Lodeiro doing Nicolas Lodeiro things

Nico Lodeiro is a Touch Percentage Superstar. His 14.4 percent leads MLS players with a significant sample size this season, and he was similarly among the league leaders in 2016 and 2017. Most of his competitors are deeper-lying midfielders who are more likely to get on the ball in safer positions, whereas Lodeiro’s touches are situated primarily in a more congested attacking third.

Lodeiro is everything for this Sounders team, the fulcrum through which they pass and create. As John Strong and Brian Dunseth relayed on the FS1 broadcast on Sunday, Garth Lagerwey and the higher-ups consider Seattle Lodeiro’s team. Only a player with the on-ball proficiency and volume of Lodeiro could deserve that lofty mantle.

Few players in MLS’ recent history have possessed Lodeiro’s willingness to control a game’s shape, and almost no one has been able to do so from the advanced positions that he has. The Uruguayan is everywhere, by design. He’s constantly moving and trying to make himself available for passes. That, his never-ending movement and incisive mobility, is what stood out in 2016 when he arrived midseason and dominated everyone.

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Chalk Talk: Unpacking the Three Course Mother's Day Feast of Soccer Games by Jason Poon

Last Sunday, MLS treated us on paper with a fabulous looking triple header for all the Mom’s out there. (Happy belated Mother’s Day to all you ASA moms!) The day started slowly with the 100th meeting between Portland and Seattle which sounded like a very promising appetizer but ultimately fell short of expectations. Thankfully, things quickly got better with the main course featuring Orlando and Atlanta, and we were treated to a delightful nightcap from LAFC and NYCFC.

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NYCFC 2018 Season Preview by Jared Young

New York City FC had their best season ever in 2017. They finished second in the league with 57 points and sported a +13 goal differential. But NYCFC plateaued and was bounced from the playoffs by Columbus, which prompted a good deal of change this offseason. NYCFC declined options on eleven players, and also moved upcoming star Jack Harrison to Manchester City, much to Pep Guardiola’s surprise, er, I mean, excitement. But it’s safe to say that NYCFC upgraded their overall talent with some smart and exciting signings. The big question that remains; did Claudio Reyna and Patrick Vieira do enough?

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Only one MLS expansion team (Seattle in 2009) since the turn of the millennium has made the playoffs in their first season. Given the tumult that surrounded NYCFC’s existence prior to ever kicking a ball, it always seemed unlikely they would be the second. But expectations for Jason Kreis’ side were high, he didn't live up to them, and so he was dismissed. There have been numerous and significant changes going into the 2016 season, and there can be no question that a significant improvement is expected for the upcoming season. How realistic those expectations are is yet to be seen.

2015 in review

In my 2015 preview for NYCFC I began with a series of questions. The answers to those questions at the end of the season were supposed to determine whether the season was a success or not. As I said at the time, “success in 2015 is unlikely to be measured in team performance, but rather a series of more existential factors.” Let’s see if the answers to those questions give us insight into what happened to the club last season.

1. “Has the city of New York accepted the team?”

This seems to be a fairly resounding “yes.” The average attendance of 29,016 people per game was good for 3rd in the league, despite playing in a baseball stadium that is less than ideal for the beautiful game. Advantage NYCFC.

2. “Has the organization created a more stable front office?”

Conversely, this seems to be a fairly resounding “no.” Kreis went to Manchester to learn from from his superiors, was poised to bring his MLS Cup winning experience to the job, and had over a year to prepare his team and roster. Then he was given unrealistic expectations and was handed a team consisting mostly of cast-offs, misfits, geriatrics, and David Villa. While he certainly wasn’t blameless, he also was far from the only reason why his team didn’t work.

A big part of that is Kreis apparently didn’t have as much control as we (and maybe he) thought he did. We won’t re-hash the Lampard fiasco here, but it became apparent early that he was but the marionette puppet and the Abu Dhabian overlords were actually pulling the strings at NYCFC.* (To add insult to injury, Kreis is now forced to stare longingly on as an assistant to a coach he is far better than.)

More questions after the jump.

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Taking A Chance in MLS Roster Construction by Harrison Crow

This off-season is a bit different for MLS fans as we have a sort of free-agency that enables a bit of extra chaos. The players now have a bit of freedom to move around the league and more influence in where they live and with whom the ply their craft. Most of us have already taken to the newly minted free-agent list and picked out their favorite Christmas present, be it Alan Gordon, Mike Magee, Justin Mapp or even Ricardo Clark or Drew Moor.

And with free-agency, it's inevitable that some club is probably going to give Nathan Sturgis another contract and another 1,000 or so minutes despite portraying the definition of a replacement level production. This isn't a personal attack against Sturgis, I'm sure he's a fine locker room guy and he sure does hustle a lot. These are tangible things to coaches and front office types.

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ASA 2015 Season Previews. Every daNG one of them! by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

In preparation for this weekend's games (they're actually happening!), we've been writing two team previews per day for the last two weeks. Going in reverse order of 2014 finish, ASA and our (very) small band of writers have published 20 articles, covering each team's 2014 season, their offseason changes, and their prospects for 2015. If you haven't read them all yet, AND WE KNOW YOU HAVEN'T, then you can catch up here.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Fire by Mike Fotopoulos
Columbus Crew by Harrison Crow
DC United by Jared Young
Montreal Impact by Harrison Crow
New England Revolution by Drew Olsen
New York City FC by Drew Olsen
New York Red Bulls by Harrison Crow
Orlando City by Harrison Crow
Philadelphia Union by Jared Young
Toronto FC by Jason Poon

Western Conference

Colorado Rapids by Harrison Crow
FC Dallas by Jason Poon
Houston Dynamo by Harrison Crow
LA Galaxy by Sean Steffen
Portland Timbers by Drew Olsen
Real Salt Lake by Matthias Kullowatz
San Jose Earthquakes by Tom Worville
Seattle Sounders by Harrison Crow
Sporting Kansas City by Matthias Kullowatz
Vancouver Whitecaps by Drew Olsen

2015 ASA Preview: NYCFC by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

For a team that has yet to play a professional game, NYCFC sure has seen - and cultivated - a lot of drama. From stadium deals falling through to the Frank Lampard debacle, to the lackluster jersey reception, to the purported rules surrounding permitted ways to support the team, it has been a rocky entrance into MLS. But the assembled on-field product looks to be a decent one. David Villa and Lampard are the big names, but an interesting combination of newcomers and seasoned MLS veterans have filled out the squad. If any MLS coach can get a brand-new team to work it is Jason Kreis, but it is already clear that the distractions will be many.

Only two teams (Chicago in 1998 and Seattle in 2009) have ever made playoffs in their expansion year, but NYCFC are looking to be the third. With the Yankees and Manchester City backing them they’re clearly not afraid to spend money, and expectations are very high. Still, success in 2015 is unlikely to be measured in team performance, but rather a series of more existential factors. Has the city of New York accepted the team? Has the organization created a more stable front office? Is there a legitimate plan to build a soccer specific stadium they can call home? Has Frank Lampard returned from England? With that said, let’s take a look at what type of team has actually been assembled.


Kreis is the great American hope for coaching. With Bob Bradley’s team Stabaek finishing mid-table in Norway and favored by many to be relegated in 2015, Kreis is now the American coach with the biggest overseas audience. At only 42, he’s also the favorite to follow in Jurgen Klinsmann’s shoes and coach the USMNT if all goes right. So what type of team has Kreis built to implement his patented 4-4-2 diamond? It’s a squad made up of a lot of familiar faces; Kreis either played or coached six of the players on his roster before bringing them to NYCFC. He also brought in players from abroad; another six players come from a league outside of North America, ranging from Uruguay and Colombia to Norway and Germany. There is a lot of pressure on Kreis, and his job may depend on his ability to get his team to sync.


MLS Veteran and MLS Cup winner Josh Saunders is the presumed starter in goal, with former Red Bulls starter Ryan Meara on loan as the backup. Saunders has only played four games in MLS since winning the Cup in 2013 with the Galaxy, and has dealt with personal issues, but our xG models for 2011-13 show he allowed fewer goals than the average goalkeeper would have expected in each of the three seasons (though small sample size caveats apply), suggesting he’s a better than average netminder. Meara performed as expected in his starting season in 2012, which implies there wouldn't be much of a letdown if Saunders can’t cut it.

In front of Saunders will be Kreis-favorite Chris Wingert at leftback, with Ecuadorian Andres Mendoza and former Earthquake Jason Hernandez in the middle, and former Crew player Josh Williams on the right. With an average age of 29, this is an experienced and hardened backline. It has lots of MLS experience, and won’t come with flash. These are solid, if unspectacular, players that won’t surprise anyone. When building a new team from nothing, consistency is important. This looks to be a good place to start.


USMNT member Mikkel Diskerud (or simply “Mix”, as his jersey will say) will do the playmaking until Lampard arrives from England. His style seems to fit perfectly into the role Javier Morales played for Kreis in Salt Lake, though playing in Norway won’t have prepared him as well as Argentina did for Morales. For the midfield diamond to work with Mix at it’s apex, he will have to quickly adjust to the speed and physicality of MLS. If he is slow to adapt, things will be tough for NYC in the early-going.

Former FC Dallas man Andrew Jacobsen will form the bottom corner of the diamond. Fresh off a successful loan to the aforementioned Stabaek, Jacobson will bring strength in the air and hard tackles to protect space behind Mix. To his left will be another RSL vet and the only player with hair rivaling Diskerud, Ned Grabavoy. He’s the ultimate role-player. He won’t grab headlines or pull cheeky moves, but he’s usually in the right place at the right time. At 31 he’s beginning to slow down, but should be able to quietly hold his own against most opponents.

The right-mid starting spot looks to be a competition between former Atlanta Silverback Kwadwo Poku and MLS journeyman Mehdi Ballouchy. On the surface they couldn't be more different. Ballouchy is a known quantity. He will bring a bit of flash and finesse to the wing, but is also prone to boneheaded mistakes and sometimes forgets to play defense. He also hasn't played more than 1000 minutes since 2011, so may require some time to find his form. Conversely, Poku is big and fast, two traits that are generally signs of future success in MLS. He has shown signs of inexperience in preseason, but seems to have a high soccer IQ. He may not start at the beginning of the season, but my money is on Poku starting by the end of it.


Either Slovakian international Adam Nemec or former USMNT U20 Tony Taylor are the favorites to start in the number nine position. Taylor had moderate success in Cypress and Portugal after going to college at South Florida, but only made only appearance last season for New England. Nemec was most recently in the German second division, where he scored 14 goals in 60 appearances since 2012.

Another way of saying it is that David Villa is all on his own up top. Possibly now the most talented player in MLS, Villa’s career speaks for itself. Since joining Valencia in 2005, he has averaged a goal every other game against some of the best competition in the world. Still, success usually doesn't come quickly for foreign starts coming to MLS. Even the likes of Henry, Beckham, and Dempsey have struggled to begin with. If Diskerud can’t get him the ball, then it will be a painfully long wait until Lampard arrives, and there is no promising that he’ll adjust quickly either.


NYCFC has built arguably the most imbalanced team in MLS history. The top starting players are arguably the best in MLS, and the bottom starting players are arguably the very worst. Even if he adapts quickly, it will be odd for a player like Villa to play next to the likes of cast-offs Ballouchy and Taylor. He’ll have to find his own space, and is likely to be double-teamed constantly. With no numbers or data to look at it is a fool’s errand to predict how this season will go, but a bottom three or top three finish seem equally likely. The truth is probably somewhere in-between. If Villa and Diskerud are slow to acclimate to MLS, it will be a very long season. If they find their niche quickly, and Lampard arrives to bring experience and goalscoring from the midfield, this team can make a run in the playoffs. I think a finish between seventh and fifth in the Eastern Conference is most likely