NEW YORK — With the departure of David Villa to Japan, New York City FC lost the face of the franchise and his 77 career goals over the first four seasons of the club.
Consequently, the club has expended significant scouting hours focused on a replacement at striker. Despite those efforts, a No. 9 has failed to emerge.
“I am happy with the club because I am sure they are working right now about that,” coach Dome Torrent told reporters Wednesday. “Right now, it is what it is. I don’t have a typical striker.”
City acquired Romanian forward Alexandru Mitriță – a winger by trade who scored a pair of fantastic goals in his two preseason appearances. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi returns after delivering 12 goals in his debut season with City – second to Villa’s 15. Maxi Moralez, the elder statesman at 32 years old, contributed nine goals and 18 assists to the cause.
In addition to Moralez in the mid, MLS All-Star Alex Ring returns and replaces Villa as the permanent first team captain. Back for their second seasons are Ebenezer Ofori and James Sands.
The Cityzens appear secure at the back, led by their Defensive Player of the Year Anton Tinnerholm and the valuable central defense pairing of Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens. Sean Johnson, who has been sharp following a national team call-up in January, gives NYCFC a strong presence in goal in his third season with the club.
New York City FC opens 2019 against Orlando City SC
When: Saturday, March 2, 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Orlando City Stadium
Broadcast: Univision, WNYE 91.5FM
Live stream: Twitter, New York City FC Network (TuneIn), NYCFC.com
The Buzz: The Lions enter the season without a playoff berth in their first four MLS seasons. The team they entered the league with, NYCFC, missed out in 2015 but have earned postseason status the last three seasons. Orlando City will be motivated to get off to a strong start with many new faces.
Other key matches
July 14 at New York Red Bulls – Just one win in eight matches at Red Bull Arena against their arch rivals.
August 11 at Atlanta United – The MLS Cup champ Five Stripes dominated in both legs of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
Check out the full 2019 schedule here.
Quotes and Notes
“It’s very similar to Giovinco how he plays. He’s going to make an impact in the league I can tell you that.” — Defender Anton Tinnerholm on Alexandru Mitriță.
“He’s a little bit similar to (Philippe) Coutinho. The most important thing for us, we have a new player who has quality to play and shine with Maxi (Moralez).” — Head coach Dome Torrent
“You can see his quality but shouldn’t expect wonders from him in the 1st few games.” — Captain Alex Ring
Biggest offseason moves
Villa’s exit left an open spot for a designated player which was filled by the “Romanian Giovinco,” Alexandru Mitriță who had 12 goals and 3 assists in 16 matches for Romanian Liga I club Universitatea Craiova at the time of his permanent transfer.
A shift in roster philosophy has placed the average age of the first team at 23.9 following the acquisitions of midfielders Keaton Parks (21), Juan Pablo Torres (19) from European clubs plus the signing of City’s third Homegrown player, Justin Haak (17).
Forwards – Valentin Castellanos, 20; Jonathan Lewis, 21: Jesus Medina, 21; Alexandru Mitriță, 24; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, 24
Midfielders – Daniel Bedoya, 25; Justin Haak, 17; Maxi Moralez, 32; Ebenezer Ofori, 23; Keaton Parks, 21; Alex Ring, 27; Tony Rocha, 25; James Sands, 18; Juan Pablo Torres, 19
Defenders – Alexander Callens, 26; Maxime Chanot, 29; Sebastien Ibeagha, 27; Ronald Matarrita, 24; Joe Scally, 16; Ben Sweat, 27; Anton Tinnerholm, 28
Goalkeepers – Luis Barraza, 22; Jeff Caldwell, 23; Sean Johnson, 29; Brad Stuver, 27
See full roster details here.