The Major League Soccer season doesn’t begin until March, but the offseason has provided several new storylines as transfers come in and out. Few teams have had quite as exciting an offseason as New York City FC. The young club is looking to follow up an overall successful season. NYCFC finished second in the Eastern conference (and the Supporter’s Shield race) behind eventual MLS Cup winners Toronto FC while accruing their highest point total in their short history. Unfortunately, NYCFC crashed out in the Eastern Conference final to the newsworthy Columbus Crew. While not the end to the season players and fans alike would have preferred, there is no doubt that the club has progressed in each subsequent season since its inception. Of course David Villa was the club’s captain, leading scorer, and most important player of the season, but more players took on bigger roles and really stood out through their consistency and passion. Alexander Callens played every single minute of the regular season, Alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera dominated a physical midfield, and Jack Harrison exploded onto the scene as one of the league’s best young attackers.
Unfortunately, there have already been several departures this offseason of names and faces that fans have come to know and love. The legendary Andrea Pirlo decided to hang up the boots after an iconic career. Defenders RJ Allen and Frederic Brillant have been traded to Orlando City and DC United respectively while New York City FC’s first ever SuperDraft selection Khiry Shelton was traded to Sporting KC. In addition, many players had contract options declined. This does not officially mean they will be gone next season, but most will likely have played their final match for NYCFC. These players include Ethan White, Miguel Camargo, Shannon Gomez, Mikey Lopez, Sean Okoli, and Andraz Struna. Expect to see one or two of these players resigned before the season begins, but for now all we can do is thank them for their service and get excited about the new additions that will be joining the club in the 2018 season.
Starting from the back, New York City FC added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew in exchange for a 2019 4th Round MLS SuperDraft pick. Stuver was selected fourth overall by the Crew in the 2013 MLS Waiver Draft. A perennial backup, the 26-year-old is almost certainly a replacement for backup goalkeeper Eirik Johansen whose option was declined by NYCFC this offseason. While Sean Johnson will almost certainly be the starter come opening day, friendly competition can only be a good thing for the goalkeeping core. Wise beyond his years, Stuver also served as goalkeeper coach at Ohio Wesleyan while he was at Columbus. This acquisition adds both leadership and experience to the locker room instantly.
New York City FC have acquired two defenders thus far this offseason in an attempt to strengthen the back line. With a solid core of Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot in the middle, NYCFC targeted a pair of utility outside backs. The first is 26-year-old Anton Tinnerholm. Signed from Swedish club Malmo FF on a free transfer, Tinnerholm has ample experience for both club and his home country of Sweden. The right back has won the Allsvenskan – the Swedish top flight – three times, helped Malmo qualify for the Champions League group stage, and won the award for Defender of the Year for the 2017 season. In addition to domestic success, Tinnerholm has made several appearances for the Swedish national team in the last three years. In terms of style of play, Tinnerholm is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, is calm and composed in possession, and tends to get forward and attack. This is in stark contrast to the other defender added this offseason. Saad Abdul-Salaam joins New York City FC from Sporting KC via a trade for Khiry Shelton. Abdul-Salaam made 64 appearances for Sporting KC over three years before being traded to NYCFC and found much success. The American outside back is also 26-years-old but has a different style of play to that of Tinnerholm. Abdul-Salaam towers over most MLS strikers at 6’ 4” and is adept at winning aerial duels anywhere on the pitch. A physical presence, Abdul-Salaam is a warrior on the pitch and a friendly face off. The addition of these two defenders will surely improve an already solid back line.
Perhaps the most exciting offseason addition for New York City FC has been the acquisition of Jesus Medina. After being signed by City Football Group (CFG) the Paraguayan attacker joins as NYCFC’s third Designated Player. Medina is one of the most exciting young prospects in the world, having turned heads in North America and Europe alike. Medina made his senior debut for Paraguayan first division side Club Libertad at the age of just 15-years-old in 2012. Since then, the now 20-year-old has made over 70 appearances for the club, scored 17 goals, and is a five-time league champion. In addition to domestic success, Medina has been a part of the Paraguayan National Team system since 2013. Working his way up from the U17’s, to the U20’s, and now to the senior team, Medina looks to be a mainstay for years to come. While officially announcing Medina’s signing, NYCFC director Claudio Reyna gushed about the addition; stating that “[Medina] is a talented attacking player who can play as a winger or No. 10 and will fit really well into our system and style of play. He is a left-footed technical player with a quick turn of pace, who can score and create goals for his teammates”. This transfer is very similar to that of fellow Paraguayan attacker Miguel Almiron to Atlanta United. Only time will tell if the transfer of Medina will prove as successful.
There is a lot to be excited about for New York City FC staff, fans, and players alike as 2018 sets up to be quite a year for the club. With these additions – and the emergence of young stars such as Jack Harrison, James Sands, and Jonathan Lewis into the mix – NYCFC continues to get younger and better as the years go on. The 2018 season kicks off for the Boys in Blue on Sunday, March 4th at Children’s Mercy Park against Sporting Kansas City. The home opener is a week later on Sunday, March 11th at Yankee Stadium against the Los Angeles Galaxy. New York City will look to improve on the 2017 season and – with big names running out of time – will look to make a real challenge for the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup with a ‘win now’ attitude. They have all the tools in attack and defense as well as a passion and unity that can only be matched by the league’s best. The sky is truly the limit and I know I’m counting the days down until opening day.
For more on New York City Football Club and Major League Soccer, keep your eye on the line and stay with Offside Football.