While New York City FC sorts out how to fill the goal-scoring gap with the departure of David Villa, there is certainty at the back entering the 2019 season with a secure group of returning defenders.
“It’s important that we know each other well,” second-year fullback Anton Tinnerholm told Pro Soccer USA. “Last year, I was the new guy so it took some time to get to know the guys but now we’ve played for a year together. Of course, that makes it even better.”
In his initial season, Tinnerholm managed to solidify a position that was unstable over the first four years of the franchise. The right back registered four goals with six assists and was named the NYCFC Defender-of-the-Year.
The City back line offers a presence of players with multiple years in the program. Tinnerholm is joined by Maxime Chanot (third year), Alexander Callens (third year), Ben Sweat (third year), Ronald Matarrita (fourth year) and Sebastian Ibeagha (second year).
10-year MLS veteran, Sean Johnson, returns for his third season in goal for the Pigeons.
Tinnerholm, the Allsvenskan Defender-of-the-Year in his final season at Malmö FF in Sweden, has a 16-year old understudy at right back – Homegrown Joe Scally.
“He’s a big talent,” Tinnerholm said. “He’s only 16 so we need to be patient. I’m trying to help him as much as I can especially after and during games. I talk to him about what he can do better and what he has done well – I’m trying to share my experience. That guy has talent and I think the U.S. has a bright future with him as a right back on the national team. He has all the qualities to go far in his career.”
Scally, who helped the NYCFC Academy U19’s to a U.S. Development Academy national title at the age of 15, has a challenge ahead of him similar to others at his age.
“The toughest for a young kid, it doesn’t matter if it’s him or me or someone else it’s the step up from the Academy to the first team, especially with league games,” said Tinnerholm, celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday. “It’s different compared to Academy games because they don’t matter that much. The thing you can do is to train 100-percent every single training and once you get the chances do as good as you can – that’s the only thing I can say.”
Tinnerholm and New York City will open the regular season at Orlando City on Saturday, March 2.