Major League Soccer has lost the tantalizing displays of Sebastian Giovinco following his transfer from Toronto FC to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal FC, but it may have gained a replica in the form of Romanian attacker, Alexandru Mitriță.
And the team from the Bronx is delighted with both scenarios.
Celebrating his 24th birthday during his debut with New York City FC, Mitriță roofed a right-footed drive four minutes into the second half in an eventual 1-1 draw on Friday with Swedish side, AIK.
On Sunday, Mitriță joined NYCFC as a Designated Player on a permanent transfer from Romanian Liga I club Universitatea Craiova.
Mitriță provided an early glimpse of his attacking prowess by anticipating a flick-on from Valentin Castellanos in the 10th minute. The Romanian international burst behind the AIK back line and drove a low shot to the back post that Oscar Linney managed to save for the 12-time Swedish champions, who currently sit at the top of the table in the Allsvenskan.
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson was influential in the opening session following his return from U.S. men’s national team camp. Entering his 10th season in the league, Johnson made two exceptional saves in the first eight minutes to keep the match level.
Jonathan Lewis, who returned from U.S. camp with Johnson after earning assists in friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica, made his first preseason start and was the lone City player to put in a 90-minute shift.
But the narrative on Friday was the christening of Mitriță – a five-foot-five extravert whose tight dribbling skills, explosive movements and goal scoring mentality provides a visual resemblance to Giovinco – who finished with 68 goals in 114 appearances for Toronto FC.
10 of those Gio strikes came in 11 matches versus New York City.
New York City’s top selection in the MLS SuperDraft, goalkeeper Luis Barraza, made his professional debut replacing Johnson in the second half. The Marquette product was forced into a reaction save just two minutes into his christening, but he was unable to save a penalty after a clumsy foul by Sebastian Ibeagha.
With the first leg of preseason complete in the Persian Gulf, New York City will next travel to Orlando for stage two and friendlies against Orlando City (February 16) and Minnesota United (February 20).
NYCFC XI (First Half): Johnson, Sweat, Chanot, Tinnerholm, Matarrita, Ring, Torres, Moralez, Lewis, Mitriță, Castellanos
NYCFC XI (Second Half): Barraza, Tinnerholm (Scally 63′), Chanot (Sands 63′), Ibeagha, Rocha, Ofori, Ring (Parks 63′), Medina, Tajouri-Shradi, Lewis, Mitriță (Bedoya 63′)