NYCFC Report Card

Matt Kremkau

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

imagesA solid first quarter by New York City FC has it comfortably inside the top six in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with 16 points from nine games. City is on pace for about 61 points, which would put it in contention for the Supporters Shield. Collectively, NYCFC players deserve high marks.

Goalkeepers

Sean Johnson, as expected, has stepped in as the No. 1 and played every minute in goal. He’s been solid with a 70% save percentage and a 1.11 goals against average. Although he’s been comfortable asserting himself with his defenders, his passing still needs to be refined. Grade: B

Eirik Johansen and Andre Rawls have yet to play this season. Johansen remains the No. 2, but Rawls has put in some impressive stints in training. Grades: Incomplete

Defenders

Alex Callens his addition — a case can be made — represents a deeper understanding of MLS in the team’s front office. Callens just turned 25, but already has a ton of professional experience in Spain and is an effective passer. While checking off those two important boxes, he is strong and fast meeting the needs of playing in MLS. Grade: B+

Maxime Chanot is now comfortable playing in MLS and speaking up as a leader of the team’s defense. Callens’ addition has allowed Chanot to move to the right and play on his preferred right foot. He has been nearly mistake-free since joining MLS midway through last season. Grade: B

Ronald Matarrita was finding the same attacking form that made him so effective as an attacking full back before his injury. He’s been successful in closing down opponents up field but there is still work for him to do as a defender when he’s deep in his own half. Grade: B

Ethan White, once again, is on an upswing. Like many younger MLS players, his playing time and confidence has fluctuated but a move to right back has worked for him and NYCFC. An inverse of Matarrita, White is the most able outside defender on the roster and rapidly improving as an overlapping attacker. Grade: B

Ben Sweat receives a mea culpa. He did not leave a great impression during the preseason but that’s what happens when the only vantage points are broadcasts and team-provided videos. Sweat has been able to replace Matarrita and provide both attacking support and defensive cover. Grade: B-

Frederic Brillant made a decisive mistake in his one start. Unless Chanot gets injured or suspended, Brillant’s chances for playing time are limited to a reserve role for. Grade: C-

R.J. Allen has also been particularly disappointing. He earned his new contract but it came with the caveat that only with improved defensive play would he be assured of playing time. That hasn’t happened and White’s performances also make it difficult for Allen to get back on the field. Grade: C-

Shannon Gomez and Kwame Awuah The former has yet to play this season; the latter made his season debut late in last Sunday’s game. Grades: Incomplete

Midfielders

Alexander Ring was a beneficiary of the retirement of Andoni Iraola because it gave NYCFC the opportunity to remake the midfield. Ring was brought in as a replacement and has been able to cover the midfield to allow his teammates to attack. His work rate and tackling have been all the team could have hoped for. That he takes good care of the ball in possession is a sweet bonus. Grade: A

Maxi Moralez is understanding how to become an effective attacking midfielder in MLS. He’s done a better job of finding space in the midfield and immediately turn that into an attacking move. His clever off-the-ball movement is creating chances, that a player a couple of inches taller might have finished. Grade: B

Yangel Herrera needed some time to acclimate to the league but the last two games show that he’s done that. His goal against Columbus was brave and his overall play has been aggressive but intelligent. He can improve as an attacker but whether he does so depends somewhat on how Coach Patrick Vieira uses him. Grade: B

Thomas McNamara cannot be faulted for his diminished role so far this season. Rodney Wallace and Moralez each have strong grips on their starting positions. McNamara has been effective coming off the bench, with a goal and an assist. He should be involved during the coming road trip. Grade: B-

Andrea Pirlo said: “Sometimes I play well, sometimes I play normal.” Grade: C

John Stertzer, Miguel Camargo and Mikey Lopez Stertzer and Camargo have had some time off the bench while Lopez has yet to play this season. Camargo has yet to show the potential that City saw him, whether that’s through being ineffective or because of the lingering effects of his past knee injury is unclear. Grades: Incomplete

Forwards

Jack Harrison‘s four goals and two assists suggest that his second year will be the one that establishes him as one of the league’s best young attackers. It’s simply a case of whether his head stays on straight, and his hip strengthens and develops correctly. He’s yet to be noticed by the England national team or European clubs, something that is mystifying and will certainly change. Grade: A

David Villa is receiving a top grade, obviously. His work ethic on the field and embrace of his roll as an off-field club ambassador continue after his most valuable player award last year. Having six goals and four assists helps, too. Grade: A

Rodney Wallace makes City a better team, joining from the Portland Timbers. Two of his three goals have been game winners and he is always well positioned to support the more expressive attackers around him. That positioning has also helped the team improve defensively, which has been vital to a strong start. Grade: A

Ugo Okoli has had his ups and downs in training and on the field, yet he made the most of his start in Columbus. He continues to fine-tune his finishing after training sessions and Vieira sees no reason to not continue to reward him. Grade: B

Jonathan Lewis only made a cameo this season and has been in and out of the first team since an early-season injury. The transition to professional play has not been as smooth as he’d hoped and he did not make the U.S. squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Grade: Incomplete

Khiry Shelton has also been limited to cameo appearances this season by injury. It’s a cliché to say this year is make-or-break for him. The team, however, spent so much to acquire Lewis and Harrison has been so effective that if Shelton remains mired in the depth chart then his future at the club will become more uncertain. Grade: Incomplete

Coach

Patrick Vieira takes a hit for mistakes made in his lineup selections against D.C. United. Otherwise, he has handled the aging of Pirlo well, worked with the young professionals who are each improving and adapted well to the challenges of this league. This four-game road trip could show off his adaptability if his methods work and City gets results out west. Grade: B+