Ten weeks in and NYCFC are quietly making their case as this season’s dark horse for the MLS cup. In the final weeks of preseason NYCFC had a flurry of signings in Yangel Herrara, Rodney Wallace, Maxi Moralez, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat, Alexander Ring, and Johnathan Stertzer. Now 10 weeks in, NYCFC are 5-1-3 with losses to Orlando/Cyle Larin, and DC United. When NYCFC signed many of these players, they were largely unknown to the majority of MLS fans and analysts, as they came from 6 different countries. Many of these new players came in late in preseason, and hardly got any playing time together before being thrown together in the season opener against Orlando City. In the opener they looked the better team, only allowing 1 shot on goal, however ultimately unable to put 1 past Joe Bendik.
Now 9 games into the season, NYCFC have seen a league leading, 57% possession average per game, and scoring 70% more than they concede. Their kryptonite, Cyle Larin, is responsible for 3 of those 10 goals against. If you take Cyle Larin out of the picture (rumor has it there are already offers for him for this summer’s transfer window), NYCFC are out-scoring opponents by more than 240%. NYCFC currently sit just one spot below Orlando in the eastern conference table, with Orlando holding a win where NYCFC earned a draw.
Among other stats NYCFC are also top 4 in average player rating, pass success, shots on target, total goals, defensive player rating, defensive tackles, aerial duels won, and assists. In the race for the supporters shield NYCFC sit in 7th with 2 games in hand, only 6 points separating them and 1st place Toronto FC.
Where NYCFC really shines however, is in roster depth. In midfield alone, NYCFC have 13 different players capable of being slotted in. 8 of those (Wallace, Moralez, Ring, Pirlo, Matarrita, Camargo, Herrera, Awuah) have international experience with their respective countries. Pirlo has seen the bench for the past 2 games in favor of the young Herrera. Defense has become competitive enough to leave previously strong starters (Allen, Brillant), out of the 18 all-together.
Next up NYCFC are facing Dallas away down in Texas, for what will be NYCFC’s toughest opponent so far. Dallas is unbeaten thus far, however they haven’t been challenged much, with few exceptions. Dallas has wins against LA Galaxy, New England Revs, Minnesota United, Sporting KC, and Real Salt Lake. Teams which, with the obvious exceptions of Sporting KC, have not been good this year, and would be hard pressed to make the play offs. If NYCFC can come away with a point (as they did last year), I think it’s safe to say they’re a serious contender for MLS cup this year. The only question now, is what to do with Pirlo, and can we get Herrara long term.