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NYCFC enters 2018 season with fortified attack

Jul 30, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira watches the action in the second half during a game against Toronto FC at BMO Field. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

For the second consecutive year, New York City FC bowed out of the Major League Soccer playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The boys from the Bronx were demolished by Toronto FC in their 2016 playoff debut and then last season by Columbus Crew SC, fueled by owner Anthony Precourt’s public comments expressing his desire to move the franchise to Austin.

NYCFC were outscored in the pair of two-legged clashes, 11-3.

The departure of 10-goal scorer Jack Harrison to sister club Manchester City FC (he’s now on loan at Middlesbrough) causes concern in the area of goal production heading into 2018. Harrison emerged as David Villa’s only consistent partner up top since the Spaniard arrived with the expansion side in 2015. The 36-year old Villa finished second in the league with 22 goals last season and has 65 goals in 98 career league appearances.

NYCFC believes it has fortified the attacking side with the acquisitions of 20-year old Paraguayan Jesus Medina, Libyan winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Norwegian international Jo Inge Berget.

In addition, 2017 MLS Super Draft first round selection Jonathan Lewis has matured in stature and soccer intellect after a full year with the program.

NYCFC travels to Sporting KC to open quest for MLS Cup

 When: March 4, 7:30pm ET

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

Broadcast: TV — FS1; RADIO – WNYE-FM 91.5

Live Stream:  MLS Live

The buzz: Last season, Jack Harrison threatened Sporting KC at the back with five shots and scored the game-winner six minutes before time for a 1-0 result at Yankee Stadium. It was the first win and first goal scored by NYCFC in just the third entry of the teams’ all-time series. NYCFC will need someone else to step up this time.

For SKC, Diego Rubio stepped up after his team traded Dom Dwyer to Orlando City in the middle of last season. The Chilean Rubio had moderate success filling the role, so Sporting KC brough Khiry Shelton as reinforcement. The club acquired Shelton from NYCFC in a straight swap for SKC’s 2016 defender of the year, Saad Abdul-Salaam. Shelton was the second overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft but managed only six goals in 54 up-and-down appearances for NYCFC. He’ll now debut for his new team against his old.

Other Key Matches

 May 5 at New York Red Bulls – After being out-played, out-hustled and outscored, 18-4 in the first two seasons of this series, NYCFC was unbeaten in three regular matches against their cross-river rivals in 2017. The Red Bulls will look to re-establish their dominance at Red Bull Arena after dropping a 4-1 decision in Harrison, New Jersey last summer.

July 11 vs Montreal Impact – When Vieira joined Arsenal in 1996, fellow French national Rémi Garde acted as his big brother. In a role reversal, Garde called Vieira last year to get his opinion about MLS prior to accepting the the head coach position with the Impact. The two friends were in opposite technical areas for a 2-2 draw in their preseason finales. This will be their first head-to-head encounter in the regular year. 

August 12 at Toronto FC – When Toronto recorded a 4-0 thumping of NYCFC at BMO Field last year, Patrick Vieira suggested in his post-match comments that his side did not have the talent to keep up with the Reds. Vieira will be anxious to evaluate the progress of his franchise in this contest. Plus, the memory is still fresh from the 7-0 aggregate romp suffered in the 2016 Eastern semi’s against TFC.

Check out the full 2018 schedule here

Quotes and Notes    

Vieira on depth – “I will have more difficulties to choose the starting XI with players like Eben (Ebenezer Ofori), Ismael (Tajouri-Shradi), Jesus (Medina). They all have the talent to start the game. That will give me more options and on the other side the ability to rotate the team a little more.”

Villa as a 36-year old – “With the passage of time, you have to take more care of your body. When you are 22 or 23 if you have a bad night’s sleep it doesn’t really affect you the next day at training. Now I can’t do that. If my kids are restless, I need to go sleep in another room.”

James Sands as a 17-year old – “I think I’ve improved a lot. Just continuing to train every day with these great players. It helps me technically and then working in the gym so I can compete with the older guys.”

Norwegian Striker Jo Inge Berget, who helped Malmo FF to the Allsvenskan title with a team leading 10 goals, will be sidelined for up to three weeks after sustaining a right quad strain while training with the club in Los Angeles.

Biggest offseason moves

  • Acquired Paraguayan attacker Jesus Medina from Libertad where he made his professional debut at the age of 15. He is expected to start at either wing out of Vieira’s 4-3-3 system.
  • Acquired right back, Anton Tinnerhom from Malmo FF. The Swedish international was named the Allsvenskan defender of the year in 2017. Vieira hopes he will be a strong two-way fullback on the right side – an area that has lacked consistency and stability.
  • Jack Harrison, whose six-game winning finishes led NYCFC in 2017, transferred to Manchester City FC for a reported six million dollars and was subsequently loaned to Middlesbrough in the Championship.

Roster Breakdown

Forwards – Jo Inge Berget, 27; Jonathan Lewis, 20; Jesus Medina, 20; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, 23; David Villa, 36; Rodney Wallace, 29

Midfielders – Kwame Awuah, 22; Yangel Herrera, 20; Tommy McNamara, 27; Maxi Moralez, 31; Ebenezer Ofori, 22; Alex Ring, 26; James Sands, 17;

Defenders – Saad Abdul-Salaam, 26; Alexander Callens, 25; Maxime Chanot, 28; Cedric Hountondji, 24; Sebastian Ibeagha, 26; Ronald Matarrita, 23; Ben Sweat, 26; Anton Tinnerholm, 27;

Goalkeepers – Jeff Caldwell, 22; Sean Johnson, 28; Andre Rawls, 26; Brad Stuver, 26

See full roster details here

 

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