NYCFC Left to Rely on Depth From Within

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

NYCFC logoPURCHASE, N.Y. — Coach Patrick Vieira wished for reinforcements but thanks to limited cap space and allocation funds New York City FC was unable to make moves during the summer transfer window. Unless NYCFC adds talent from the free agent or loan market, it will have to push for silverware with the roster it has and the uncertainty within it.

The weak spot in City’s roster is at center back. Frederic Brillant and Alex Callens are the only natural and healthy options because Maxime Chanot remains weeks from being able to begin running. It led Vieira to admit that he needed an additional center back after Tuesday’s training session but no acquisitions were made.

The only addition City is set to make is Nahuel Ferraresi, a Venezuelan U-20 international who is set to sign with the City Football Group from Deportivo Táchira — but Ferraresi will not join the club until next season. The club president Jorge Silva confirmed the move to local media on Thursday. New York City also did trade one of its international slots to the Vancouver Whitecaps for $75,000 of general allocation money.

Should Brillant or Callens get injured, Vieira indicated that he would have to shift Ethan White or Ben Sweat inside to center back because James Sands also is not fit. It’s a move Vieira does not want to make.

“It’s not ideal at all,” Vieira said. “Ethan has been doing a fantastic job at right back and I know that I can use him as a center back. But in the last few months, he has been working hard at the tactical aspects of the game as an outside back so if I ask him to play center back, he can do it but it’s too much to ask of him. The same with Ben. I know Ben can play left center back but he’s been working so well as a left back that if I take him out of this position, I’m not going to help him. If we want to get the best from the players, we have to play them at their best positions.”

It would have been ideal for City to add players at each line, Vieira said. Instead, they will have to make due with the versatile yet seldom used options on the bench. That will be the case Saturday night at the Los Angeles Galaxy as Vieira has to replace the suspended Maxi Moralez. Andrea Pirlo and Thomas McNamara are the primary options being considered. City should get a boost from the return of winger Rodney Wallace, who began full training this week deepening their able group of wingers that includes McNamara, Jonathan Lewis, Khiry Shelton and Jack Harrison.

“We’re doing well and we know we can do a lot more,” Wallace said. “That’s the thing that separates us from a lot of teams. We’re in a good position but we know that it’s not enough and it’s not enough until we win championships and that’s what keeps us going.”

Vieira wanted to add players to increase the competition within the squad but he’s also seeking to tweak it and develop a new approach to the attack. Impressed by his substitute appearances, Vieira wants to incorporate Ugo Okoli, but wants to do so without disrupting the balance of the squad. A tricky situation since City has exclusively started in a 4-3-3 with David Villa as the center forward this season. Okoli said he’s been forming a solid chemistry with Villa that was displayed with the flick-on header he won leading to the decisive penalty in last Sunday’s match.

“I like to hold the ball up and lay it off into teammates into space,” Okoli said. “Whenever I’m in position, I think it’s good for David, Maxi, Khiry and Jack. I know they’re running off of me because I can find them in a dangerous spot off of a goal kick or a long ball. I just think it’s something that’s good and makes our team more dynamic. If we keep working on it, it can make us a very scary force going forward.”

Okoli, Shelton and Lewis have combined for one goal and one assist this season. Mikey Lopez is on pace to set a career-high in minutes played and was mentioned as an option to start Saturday night’s match. The first-round pick Kwame Awuah has only played 15 minutes this season. Now with the chances of new talent coming in significantly diminished, these players will be tasked with taking City further up the table.

“It’s important for every player to understand that they will have a big part to play in our success,” Vieira said after the Red Bulls game. “If we want to be successful, we will need everybody. Khiry, in his first game back, worked really hard for the team. It’s important for those players to understand they are important and they are important. I will need them to work really hard.”