MLS Focus: No-name NYCFC rolls on

New York City FC made a big splash in 2015 with the signings of European stars David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.

But in its fourth season, NYCFC has climbed to the top of MLS with a team of no-name players it has cobbled together from around the world.

It improved to 5-0-1 with a 4-0 win over struggling Real Salt Lake on Thursday night, fielding a starting lineup with players from 11 different countries, only two of them (American keeper Sean Johnson and Costa Rican Ronald Matarrita) with more than two years of MLS experience.

Lampard and Pirlo are gone. But even with Villa sidelined for the last four games, NYCFC continues to roll, scoring at least two goals in every game.

Norwegian Jo Inge Berget, Libyan youth international Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Paraguayan Jesus Medina --  all first-year players -- have started the last three games up front with Villa sidelined and Rodney Wallace relegated to the bench. Jack Harrison, the third member of the NYCFC frontline in 2017, was sold to Manchester City in January.

Medina was a Young Designated Player signing from Libertad in his native Paraguay, and Tajouri-Shradi came on a transfer from Austria Wien. But Berget came as a free agent from Swedish champion Malmo along with new right back Anton Tinnerholm.

Three of the four goals against RSL came from first-year players -- Tajouri-Shradi, who has scored four goals in four starts, Berget, who scored his first goal, and Ghanaian Ebenezer Ofori, who is on loan from Germany's VfB Stuttgart.

NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira was pleased for Berget, who missed much of preseason with a quad injury and then the flu.

“I think he’s been very unlucky since he arrived with us with injuries," said Vieira, "but he’s been working hard. He deserved that goal and I’m really pleased. Even if he is not 100 percent fit, I like the way he’s working for the team. I like the way he’s thinking about the team before thinking about himself. He deserved the goal. I’m really happy for him today.”

Johnson, the only starter with more than three years of MLS experience, says NYCFC has been able to build momentum with each passing week.

"We have a group of players that are very driven, very focused, very hungry," he said. "I think hungry is the best word to describe this group. Every game, we know we have to go in and put on a performance. When we get a result, we analyze it -- both the good and bad. We work on things throughout the week and then our focus shifts to the next game."

3 comments about "MLS Focus: No-name NYCFC rolls on".
  1. Ben Myers, April 12, 2018 at 5:33 p.m.

    So what if they are first-year MLS players?  They have been playing somewhere else for years.  I suppose this means that if Zlatan scores 20 goals, he could be MLS rookie of the year? 

    What is important here is the no-name aspect of NYCFC, built through very good scouting of prospects.

  2. John Soares, April 13, 2018 at 6:08 a.m.

    Ben, agree; What is sad here is, basically no American players. Not a complaint. NYFC is playing by the rules. I just would like  to  see  more Americans on the field. 

  3. frank schoon, April 14, 2018 at 10:25 a.m.

    No name players doesn't mean they can't play soccer. There are many good players in the world who can play good solid soccer and that is what you really need. It also helps to have a coach who not only played on a high level but also was a good player and knows the game. Yes, I also would like to see more American players but at this stage of the game, we don't have much. We are just going to have to bare with it until we can develop better talent, although it has been 50years and counting.

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