ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — Anton Tinnerholm had options, just like he did when he was coming off another title-winning season with Malmo, competing in the UEFA Champions League and being named 2017 Allsvenskan Defender of the Year .
There was interest in Germany and offers were on the table from clubs in Belgium and the Netherlands, the chance to return to Europe a signature away.
But the Swedish right back chose New York City FC again. Just like he did in 2017.
“I felt like if I changed then it has to be something way better than it is here,” Tinnerholm told Pro Soccer USA. “You never know of course, but I felt I’m at a good place now. My wife is happy and I’m very happy and I want to be part of a winning club. It’s been important for me that the club is handled very professionally, from the players to the staff and what’s happening in the office. I think everything off the pitch and on the pitch I agree with what the club is doing. And we still have to remember we’re a young club, but we’re taking steps every day and think I want to be part of that trip.”
The 28-year-old had no idea what to expect when the first offer came to join NYCFC in 2017. He’d never been to New York, never watched an MLS game.
But the pitch from sporting director Claudio Reyna and then-coach Patrick Vieira convinced Tinnerholm to leap out of his comfort zone and embark on a new adventure.
“They talked about how they wanted to see me in the lineup, how the club played and they talked about the facility and the goals for the club,” Tinnerholm said. “They want to win the Cup, that is a club who is just not about the brand. They want to win and that’s similar to what I want to achieve.”
Reyna said the pitch was an honest one — NYCFC was a growing, professionally-run club with Cup-wining aspirations and Tinnerholm would be an integral part of that.
“We wanted to make sure that when he arrived here he was taken care of and realized that right away, with Patrick as the coach, the standard here was very high,” Reyna said.
A stranger in the Big Apple at first, Tinnerholm is now comfortable in his new city. He and wife live in Manhattan and they are expecting their first child in a few months.
“We like to discover new places and New York has been fantastic for us,” Tinnerholm said. “There’s so many things to do. It’s important for me what my wife is saying and she is enjoying life very much. Of course, i think there are worse places to live than New York City.”
On the pitch, Tinnerholm has excelled as one of the league’s best right backs in his two seasons with NYCFC, starting 61 games with five goals and 14 assists.
Tinnerholm’s eight assists this year are tied for most in the league among defenders with Philadelphia Union outside back Kai Wagner. He is third among fullbacks/wingbacks in xG+xA with 6.9, behind Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel (12.7) and Rolf Feltscher of the LA Galaxy at 7.1, according to AmericanSoccerAnalysis.com.
Tinnerholm has also become of the club’s core leaders, taking NYCFC’s younger players, especially fellow outside back Joe Scally, under his wing.
“He’s absolutely in every way repaid us back for his effort and performances,” Reyna said. “He doesn’t wear the armband, but he’s a captain. And we have many of those players and he’s a big part of why we are where we are at the moment. He’s an amazing guy in the locker room.”
Reyna said it’s been vital to keep the club’s nucleus together and that’s what they’ve been able to do by signing the likes of Sean Johnson, Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, Alex Ring and, most recently, Maxi Moralez to multi-year extensions.
“As a player I think it’s important to keep going and repeat season after season with the same players,” Chanot said. “Football is all about continuity. That’s really important to know players will be there for the next few years and we’ve already played all together almost for two seasons.”