Photo: New York City Football Club Facebook
New York, NY - The 2022 season was an unforgivable roller coaster ride for NYCFC and its supporters. After starting the season hot under Ronny Deila, The Pigeons spurned after both he and golden boot contender Taty Castellanos departed during the summer. Somehow, NYCFC managed to secure a 7th consecutive trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs. After knocking off Inter Miami at home and Montreal in Canada, they had their sights set on a second consecutive trip to MLS Cup Final in their crosshairs with only a rematch with Philadelphia Union standing in their way. Alas, Philly was too much to overcome as the team bowed out of the MLS Cup Finals in the Conference Semi-Final Round to eventual MLS Cup Runners Up Philadelphia Union.
The 2023 offseason saw an unprecedented changing of the guard within the ranks of NYCFC. Mainstays Maxi Moralez and Anton Tinnerholm left the club to return home to Argentina and Sweden respectively. Diminutive striker Heber saw himself being traded to Western Conference foe Seattle Sounders. Pillar Sean Johnson opted not to re-sign with the club and instead pursue greener pastures north of the border with Toronto FC. Widely regarded as one of the best left footed center backs in MLS, Alexander Callens, signed a free agent contract with CFG subsidiary Girona in Spain's La Liga. Santiago Rodriguez, a player assumed to be the heir to the 10 throne, loan came to an end and returned to Montevideo City Torque (yet another CFG subsidiary). Depth piece Nicolas Acevedo was confusingly granted a loan to Bahia in Brazil's Serie A, you guessed it...ANOTHER CFG SUBSIDIARY ! All the while, Gedion Zelalem, Vuk Latinovich, and Chris Gloster were all well wished and sent on their way. If you made a starting XI out of NYCFC's departures, you could easily contend for a top 4 spot in the Eastern Conference in 2023.
With all of these departures and CFG's scouting network essentially at their finger tips, surely NYCFC was poised to make massive signings to bolster an already established young foundation to make another deep run in MLS?
CORRECT! Kind of...
NYCFC subscribes to the "wait and see" method of signings. They let every other team in MLS make a flurry of sexy signings and then, as everything else is cooling off, that is when NYCFC pull the trigger. NYCFC saw the signings of LCB Tony Alfaro from DC United, RB Mitja Ilenic from NK Domzale, ST Gabriel Segal from 1.FC Köln II, GK Matt Freese from Philadelphia Union, and a loan deal for LB Braian Cufre from RCD Mallorca.
So where does that leave NYCFC with an impending Season Opening match at Nashville looming this weekend?
Short answer? In a TOUGH spot. With major off-season departures and unproven replacements, the NYCFC season predictions from many MLS pundits have been inconsistent to say the least. Could NYCFC find a way to get through the early stages of the 2023 season and make a splash signing to help catapult us back to our rightful spot among the Eastern Conference elite? Surely. Is it likely? NO.
NYCFC has the talent to make the playoffs in 2023, and thanks to MLS FINALLY releasing the 2023 MLS Cup Playoff format, so do 62% of the league ! I cannot give an accurate prediction of what is going to transpire in MLS in 2023, but that's why most of us are a fan of this league...It may just be the most unpredictable and enjoyable professional football league in the WORLD!