NYCFC Finding its Form

Image: NYCFC.com © Brad Penner

NYCFC Finally Finding its Feet?

New York City FC has known its fair share of struggles during its first season in Major League Soccer.  Hopes were high for the younger sibling of English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City FC.  However from NYCFC’s first game in its’ first-ever MLS season, it became apparent that similar to older sibling MCFC, the team may produce great-looking soccer at times, but its biggest drawback is lack of consistency.

And so, the club produced a 2015 season of highs and lows, with a winless streak of 10 games, losing streak of 4 and for now the recent winning streak of 3 games.

It all would have been less of a surprise had the franchise been coming in with less ambitious and expensive plans, but again similar to its older sibling from Manchester, NYFCF went into Major League Soccer with all guns blazing.

With 3 designated players that no less than soccer legends worldwide, the City Football Group drafted Barcelona star David Villa ($5.6m), Chelsea FC’s all-time top scorer Frank Lampard ($6m) and Juventus magician midfielder Andrea Pirlo ($2.3m).  The sums represent the highest guaranteed compensation for the MLS 2015 season.

The team’s 2015 guaranteed compensation for its first MLS season stands at $17.8 million, topped only by Toronto FC ($22.7m) and LA Galaxy ($19.4m).

So what happens to a team with three designated players that are world-class stars, and with the third-highest paycheck in Major League Soccer?

David Villa, the only one of the three who played from the first game of the season showed from the get go tremendous talent and ability, as well as the motivation and diligence to produce for his teams.  However Villa was struggling atop the midfield, with very limited support from both back and front.  The phenomenal attacker that has played up front for most of his soccer career, suddenly found himself in the position as an attacking midfielder, and more so a number 10 that was supposed to be a playmaker.

And even when Villa did rise to the occasion and produced chances, there was nobody there really to capitalize.  Although said in frustration after the team’s biggest loss of all times to LA Galaxy (5-1), Villa was right on when saying “he can’t do everything”.

Still, David Villa has been making a significant impact on the club’s progress, and to date already scored 17 goals this MLS season.

England Premier League phenomenon Frank Lampard also had a turbulent start at his new NYCFC home.  Starting with a delayed arrival that raised controversy, as Lampard was still playing at Manchester City FC instead of starting the season in New York as anticipated.  And followed by several injuries that delayed his debut until late in the season (August 1st).

Lampard is starting to throw his weight around the pitch as well, and has already scored 2 goals in his 7 MLS appearances.  “For me, it’s about fitness” said Lampard to the press this week, “when I’m fit, I can score goals, I can contribute.”

The third star to arrive late to NYCFC was Juventus legendary midfielder Andrea Pirlo.  Pirlo made his debut in late July, and has been struggling to replicate his genius midfield playmaking as did in Juventus and Italy’s National Team.  Pirlo was also criticized by many for not being able to control the midfield, failing to create opportunities and mostly making costly mistakes that cost NYCFC conceding goals.

Gradually however, Andrea Pirlo is also starting to find his form.  He has played 90 minutes in all but two of his matches at NYCFC.  And as time passes, Pirlo begins to establish relationships and understanding with his teammates, and it shows on the pitch.  In the last 2-0 victory against Toronto (where Pirlo’s faced countryman and former Juventus teammate Sebastian Giovinco), Pirlo assisted in both NYCFC’s goals.  He completed 80% of his passes in each of his last three MLS matches.

 

To date, New York City Football Club is sitting on a 3-game winning streak (the longest in its short history).  Still, the club is trying to catch up and salvage what has been a bumpy inaugural season in Major League Soccer.  Ranked eighth in the MLS Eastern Conference, NYCFC is chasing a spot in the playoffs.

Is it too-little, too-late? We actually think it’s better-late-than-never.