Exchanging highly-paid veterans for youth has defined NYCFC’s first off-season under coach Domenec Torrent.
The David Villa era is over, raising important questions about NYC’s long-term direction. Torrent, the mercurial Pep Guardiola disciple, is attempting to implement his vision, though his exact goals are thus far unclear.
A Look at NYCFC Off-Season Transfers
The Spaniard has a penchant for tactical ambiguity, at least based on a rocky half-season in charge. He rotated attackers at high frequency and emphasized throwing numbers forward with the ball, often sacrificing defensive solidity and coherent possession. NYC’s off-season acquisitions — including 19-year-old Juan Pablo Torres, 24-year-old Romanian attacker Alexandru Mitrita, and 21-year-old Keaton Parks — are apparently aimed at continuing this attacking, pressing, on-ball ethos.
Villa and 28-year-old striker Jo Inge Berget are gone, along with veteran winger Rodney Wallace, star midfielder Yangel Herrera (who was injured for most of 2018 and is now in La Liga, still on loan from Manchester City), and lead-footed midfielder Eloi Amagat, who looked vastly out of his depth in 430 minutes.
With Homegrowns James Sands and Justin Haak in the fold, NYC are noticeably younger. But how they will line up remains a question mark, and Torrent’s tactical inclinations are equally as hazy as they were in August, when the Light Blues plummeted below Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls in the standings.
Replacing Villa and Berget up top could be accomplished with a false 9, which Torrent tried at times last season with Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina. They will have to decide whether Mitrita fits such a role, or if a player like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi should play up top or out wide. Mitrita is a Designated Player has a fairly good goalscoring record in Romania (some Mitrita goal scoring highlights below), indicating NYC consider him the answer at striker.
Did NYCFC Do Enough to Catch-Up?
This off-season’s moves are difficult to identify as positive or negative beyond “David Villa is gone and that’s obviously bad.” Mitrita is a bit of a wild card, coming from an obscure league. They could consider further reinforcements.
As ever, NYCFC’s prospects come down to Torrent. He has to be willing to put his best players on the field (that means starting Lewis) and maintain some continuity in personnel and style. NYC were streaky last season. Less tinkering will decrease chaos.
Before they approach the elite tier of the Eastern Conference again, Torrent has to concede those points. Patrick Vieira was able to consistently keep NYC in that elite tier with a beautiful, intricate possession system. Following Vieira was always going to be difficult, but Torrent arrived with high expectations. Those expectations won’t disappear.