What a roller coaster of a season it was for New York City FC.
A season that started in disappointment for Jason Kreis’ side overall ended in disappointment for City, as NYCFC finished 8th place in the Eastern Conference, and conceded the joint most goals in the MLS season.
Things got worse for City as the board fired Kreis on November 2nd after not meeting goals set by the backroom staff. One of the goals set to Kreis and the NYCFC side was to reach the playoffs, so what went wrong?
One major reason why NYCFC didn’t reach the playoffs is their defence. To put it nicely, City had the worst defence in the league, and at times looked like the back four couldn’t stop a pensioner from going one-on-one with the keeper.
City had a good keeper in Josh Saunders, who made the most saves out of any keeper in the league with 123 saves; however NYCFC only kept four clean sheets all season, that’s right, four shutouts in a 34 match season. The problem therefore lied in the defence.
City has been at the centre point of some high scoring games. They drew 4-4 at home with Toronto FC, lost to LA Galaxy 5-1, and surprisingly won 5-3 at Yankee Stadium against Orlando City. Based of these score lines, you would suspect the NYCFC defence to simply not exist during these games, and you would be right.
The defence is constantly caught out of position, and in the game against LA were Robbie Keane and company wreaked havoc, the hosts could had easily scored nine or ten had it not been for the somewhat decent performance from Saunders.
Going forward however, NYCFC were surprisingly good. City scored 49 goals in the 34 games they played this season, with David Villa scoring a respectable 18 goals in his first season in America. Kwadwo Poku was also someone who got NYCFC goals, scoring six and assisting four in only 978 minutes of game time.
So how can NYCFC make the playoffs for next season? For one, they had to hire the right man for the job. Whether the board or Kreis is to blame for a poor season is a debate for another day, but now the most important thing for NYCFC is to find the right manager.
After much speculation, Patrick Vieira was named the new head coach of NYCFC on November 7th. The reaction to this appointment has been varied. Some think the addition of Vieira is the missing piece of the puzzle to getting New York to the playoffs, whilst others claim that Vieira will go down the same road as Ruud Gullit, as in being too inexperienced in professional management and know too little about MLS to manage the side, only time will tell.
So what else can New York do to make the playoffs next season? A rebuilding of the defence will likely be the number one priority for Vieira on the pitch. NYCFC have already used up all three DP spots, so a trade or a free agent will be the best way for City to improve their leaky defence.
Their sister club, Manchester City, can also assist New York as they can loan out more players to the Big Apple, as they did with Angelino who had a mixed half season at New York.
The final key element of NYCFC making the playoffs next season will be to get Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo to play like their former selves. Lampard found his form too late last season when City was well out of the playoff race, and Pirlo was merely a shadow of his former self.
The Italian maestro went missing too many times for City, and the veteran midfielder looked lost and bored most of the time. If Vieira can bring the Pirlo of old into the team, NYCFC could become a major force in MLS.
All inaugural seasons are tough for any team in the MLS, but for NYCFC, they have the resources needed to make a big statement in 2016 if they take the right steps forward in reaching the playoffs.