A look at NYCFC’s depth chart

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

We are at the point in New York City FC’s preseason where the focus moves from gaining match fitness towards preparing for the season-opening match against the Chicago Fire on March 6th.

The occasion will be Patrick Vieira’s first match as NYCFC boss. While he faces the grand task of developing the club’s identity and turning the team’s fortunes around, it all begins with his first team sheet.

Who will make Vieira’s first team remains uncertain. However, with less than two weeks until first kick, here’s a look at NYCFC’s depth chart.

DEFENSE

GOALKEEPER: Josh Saunders, Eirik Johansen (International Player)

Although Josh Saunders enters 2016 as the incumbent to the starting goalkeeper job, Eirik Johansen started and played all 90 minutes of NYCFC’s match against the Montreal Impact — the only match against MLS competition this preseason. Johansen is more comfortable distributing from the back and as a sweeper than Saunders, who is more of a traditional shotstopper.

Saunders’ 123 saves led all goalkeepers last season and his play kept NYCFC competitive until the final month of the regular season. However, Johansen is much closer to being the number one than most would have expected at the end of 2015.

Left Fullback: Ronald Matarrita (I), Diego Martinez (I), Connor Brandt

It is already clear why NYCFC used targeted allocation money to acquire Ronald Matarrita. The 21-year-old Costa Rican international shows a clear understanding of his positioning without the ball both in defense and while expanding the field in possession. Matarrita can also take his man on with the ball or combine well with the midfield.

Although Matarrita is set to be a first-team regular, there is still a chance for Diego Martinez and Connor Brandt to get playing time at left back. Martinez has been NYCFC’s second-choice left back with Brandt sidelined due to injury and has had a reasonably positive preseason thus far. It would not be out of the question to see Matarrita moved to left wing and Martinez play at left back if Vieira opts for a more defensive-minded lineup.

Right Back: Andoni Iraola (I), Ethan White, RJ Allen

Somewhat surprisingly, RJ Allen has not had much playing time this preseason after showing that he can be a serviceable right back in MLS last year. Andoni Iraola is still the likely starter despite missing the final month of last season due to injury. Iraola will turn 34 this June and does not have the pace to regularly go forward. He instead relies on his intelligence to provide width in possession while maintaining his position on NYCFC’s backline.

Allen may make the NYCFC roster as a backup right back, but the versatile Ethan White spent time at right back in preseason and may allow the club to use the roster spot elsewhere.

Centerback: Frédéric Brillant (I), Ethan White, Jason Hernandez, Ivan Ivanov, Jefferson Mena (I)

Frédéric Brillant and Ethan White have seen the most time together as centerbacks while with the rest of NYCFC’s starters in preseason. The two are a part of a still uncertain NYCFC defense that has yet to concede during preseason. Jason Hernandez was a reliable option last year but that doesn’t hold much weight when NYCFC gave up a league-worst 58 goals.

Ivan Ivanov has had a fair share of playing time as a trialist but has yet to emerge as a potential starter. Jefferson Mena is only beginning to train after being sidelined due to injury. He is not expected to be fit in time for the season opener.

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  • Jason Kreis

    The new coach at NYCFC is anti American players. He will soon find that the OLD, and I do mean OLD players on the roster like the 34 year OLD right back will not hold up well against athletic teams like Red Bulls. Big learning curve coming to try and coach in MLS.
    Unfortunately I predict three more losses to Red Bulls this season.

    • slowleftarm

      tell me what team do they hold up well against ?