Although a new striker has not arrived to reinforce the attacking corps for the New York City Football Club, the “Romanian Giovinco” is suitably in place.
NYCFC concluded its preseason schedule in Tennessee with a convincing 2-0 win over future Major League Soccer brethren Nashville SC. The Pigeons held the United Soccer League side — set for an MLS launch in 2020 — without a shot on frame.
Designated Player Alexandru Mitriță, who bears resemblance to former Toronto FC talisman Sebastian Giovinco in both frame and style, scored on a strike from distance for NYCFC’s second goal.
The 5-foot-5 forward joined NYCFC on a permanent transfer from Romanian Liga I club Universitatea Craiova. He missed domestic scrimmages against Orlando City and Minnesota United while his visa was processed. But during his debut with the club, a match against Swedish leader AIK during City’s first preseason phase in Abu Dhabi, Mitriță celebrated his 24th birthday with a similar approach from the left channel and goal.
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Maxi Moralez, the 31-years-old elder statesman on a squad with an average age of just under 24 years, opened the scoring against Nashville from the penalty spot after a hand ball in the area.
“These games serve more to get your rhythm for the first match,” Moralez told NYCFC.com after the game. “We controlled the ball well.”
New York City possesses a multitude of players who can – possess. During this preseason, despite the two-goal output Friday, the inability to finish opportunities could be generating an uneasy feeling in the back room and the boardroom.
Last week, head coach Dome Torrent suggested Moralez and Mitriță could have an additional attacking partner soon, but the “new striker” has failed to emerge.
NYCFC is an unlikely destination for former Villarreal and Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi, sources told Pro Soccer USA. A report fueled by Rossi’s agent suggested that the Clifton, N.J., native – 32 and currently out of contract — is focused on MLS.
Rossi trained with the New York Red Bulls for six months while searching for options last year. In a November, 2018 interview he told Pro Soccer USA he would cherish a return to the metropolitan area.
“Coming home and playing home would be something amazing,” he said. “I would love to be a part of the soccer culture that is around this area – the New Jersey/New York area. Obviously, it takes two to tango, am I right? I would love to sit down to talk.”
Mitriță and Moralez have combined to tally City’s four goals in five preseason matches – each scoring a golazo from distance and Moralez from the spot. Mitriță’s 15-yard blast in the Persian Gulf was the only finish inside the area – a zone where scoring frequency is mandatory for a team with title aspirations.
Only seven of New York City’s 59 regular season goals were celebrated from outside the 18-yard box in 2018, while reigning MLS Cup champ Atlanta United scored 62 of their league-high 70 goals inside the penalty area.
Lewis the striker
Torrent chose to start a new striker Friday night, although it was a player entering his third season with the club. The recently-baptized United States international, Jonathan Lewis, began the night between left wing Mitriță and designated player Jesus Medina on the right. Lewis has been a winger for his entire professional career and for his first two caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team less than a month ago.
Torrent utilized Valentin Castellanos as the No. 9, employing both Medina and Mitriță as false 9s in previous preparation matches.
Lewis proved to be a nuisance for Nashville. He raced behind the back line on a weighted pass from Ben Sweat, but then shanked his shot so badly that it rolled out for a throw-in to the right of the frame.
While Lewis cherishes his role to break down defenders on the flank, playing along the last line of defense as a center forward provides a threat. The 21-year old has the kind of pace to successfully run the channels and keep his opponents honest at the back.
Appropriate tools aside, Lewis is not likely to be under strong consideration for the No. 9 role – and preseason has failed to provide a clear picture of who is best suited for the role of striker.
Meanwhile, Keaton Parks and Juan Pablo Torres – two transfer midfielders who figure to provide considerable influence this season – remained on the bench in the final team test ahead of the regular-season opener at Orlando City March 2
The last 15 minutes of the match in Music City was played with an odd collection in the front six. When Homegrown midfielder James Sands entered for Mitriță, the three midfielders bumped up a notch – Moralez to center forward, Ebenezer Ofori became the No. 10, Ring the No. 8 and Sands sat deep as the No.6. Ofori was unaccustomed to the advanced position, which he clearly demonstrated when his shot from close range sailed high over the bar.
Another error in the critical scoring area – a matter that needs to be solved by the whole team.