NYCFC Shrewdly Prepares For Its Second Season

Negotiating to acquire the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft and signing the best Left Back in Costa Rica are strokes of genius by NYCFC
by Nick Chavez   |   Friday, January 22, 2016

New York City Football Club is now officially living the “Pura vida”, as they have just signed Ronald Matarrita, the 21-year old, highly-rated starting left back from one of Costa Rica’s “Big 2” Clubs and the country’s National Team.

Prominent Costa Rican football journalist Juan Carlos Agüero told SoccerNewsday, “Yes, Matarrita will be [one of the 3-5 best left backs in MLS]. He is the most promising player in Costa Rica, is very fast and technically-gifted. He attacks very well, and is tactically disciplined.”

Mr. Agüero also compared him to fellow Costa Rican starting left back Waylon Francis, who plays for the MLS Cup runners-up Columbus Crew, remarking, “[Matarrita] is more complete of a player than Waylon, and he did very well in MLS. He is young and can still be an even better player than he is now.”

 

When asked if he believed that Matarrita could handle the physicality of MLS, Mr. Agüero responded, “Of course he can, he already showed it against Panamá in the World Cup Qualifiers (playing for the Costa Rican National Team), as well as in the CONCACAF Champion’s League against MLS teams.”

Matarrita’s Liga Deportiva Alajuelense ended up beating DC United 6-4 on aggregate, eliminating DC in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League, and he figured prominently over the two legs, starting both matches playing as a left midfielder.

 

Agüero summed up his thoughts on Matarrita by saying, “Ronald is an amazing soccer player, He's only 21 years old. I believe he's a great investment for New York City FC.”

 

Matarrita was a key player for Costa Rican powerhouse  “La Liga”, and is a starter for the Costa Rican National Team, which is currently enjoying a “Golden Generation” the likes the country has never seen before. Some Tico fans consider him the best left back in Costa Rica, which is saying a lot.

 

Matarrita is a very fast, tenacious, attack-minded left-back/left-midfielder, who is not afraid to take a match by the scruff of the neck and bring it to the opposition. He likes to take shots and dribble at defenders, and can draw a lot of fouls while on his determined runs. He’s good for a well-timed sliding tackle, and he is also trusted to take corners and direct free kicks for one of Costa Rica’s perennial Championship contenders.


Young, but battle-hardened by strong performances in World Cup Qualifiers, the CONCACAF Champion’s League, and competing in Championship finals in Costa Rica’s First Division, I get the sense that most NYCFC fans will be saying, “Angelino who?” soon enough in New York City’s 2nd-ever season.


Jack Harrison -- Too good to pass up


The talented Tico is an acquisition which also helps to explain why NYCFC was so quick to trade away the rights to the highly-rated left back Brandon Vincent in the MLS Super Draft, and even added some allocation money to convince the Chicago Fire to send the 19-year old Generation Adidas prospect Jack Harrison back to the 5 Boroughs.


But, when you take a gander at some highlights of who I will often be referring to as “Jack The Ripper” from now on, you get an idea of why Reyna and Vieira were so hell-bent on signing the talented Manchester United youth product.

The attacking midfielder from Bolton, England had a decorated college career, scoring 8 goals and 11 assists as a freshman at Wake Forest, achieving NSCAA First Team All-America, ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Freshman of the Year honors.


But, does New York City really need another attacking midfielder?


It’s certainly not at the top of New York City’s priority list, but this is a signing with an eye on the future, who can make an impact in the present. There is an excellent chance that Lampard will not renew past this season, and if Mix doesn’t perform significantly better than he did in 2015, he may find NYCFC looking to cut their losses and free up the “DP Lite” spot he currently holds. And that’s if Mix is still with NYCFC by the time this season starts. You never know.


Sometimes a talent seems too special to pass up, and it appears that Reyna and Vieira felt that way, since they didn’t use their pick to get a promising central defensive player; an area in which New York City still need to reinforce with quality. It also doesn’t hurt that Harrison is a Generation Adidas Player, which means his salary will not count against the salary cap. Now, that can come in handy.


Harrison has a fantastic touch on the ball, and excellent dribbling ability. He has outstanding vision and anticipation, and an unselfishness that rewards his team on the score sheet. He can play in prescient long balls and crosses, or he can just as easily bury his chances, which he often creates for himself.


“Jack The Ripper” cuts like Kool DJ Red Alert in his heyday, creating space for himself and making his opponents pay for it. He can even score with direct free kicks, though it’s likely he won’t be doing that too much as along as Pirlo, Villa and Lampard are still around.


Without a doubt, the young Englishman is talented, and he’s got the pedigree of Manchester United’s youth academy developing his game as a youngster.


But what about the defense?


With New York City already cutting some of the more underperforming players on its team, some of which (Calle, Grabavoy, and Brovsky) who were taking up a decent chunk of the salary cap, Reyna and Co. have definitely done well to make the right changes and free up cap space.


At the same time, they have wisely kept reliably-to-very-well performing, lower-salaried players such as Ballouchy, RJ Allen, Mullins, Poku and McNamara.


What remains to be seen now is if New York City can properly reinforce at center back, as well as the center defensive midfield positions. With Facey gone, New York City will really want to bring in a quality central defender with speed, and hopefully, experience. And with the reliable Andrew Jacobson being NYCFC’s only defensive midfielder to speak of, Los Celestes should want a backup, or even better, a quality bully in the middle of the park that can properly compete for Jacobson’s spot, and help out Andrea Pirlo with his unique brand of “defending.”


Relying on two slower, aging midfielders in Pirlo and Lampard makes New York City susceptible to fast-breaking counter-attacks and pacy opponents, as the Bronx faithful have painfully learned, so Vieira should really look to sure up the central defensive spine of a team that otherwise looks to have an embarrassment of riches in the attacking midfield, and several dangerous options at forward, including the returning Tony Taylor, Khiry Shelton, Patrick Mullins, and of course, El Guaje Villa.


With some room still left in the cap and the Teixeira move falling through, one expects these reinforcements to be coming, at least at the CB position. Trading a generally useless fourth round pick for reliable, 24-yr old center back Ethan White was another shrewd move, but Vieira won’t likely be relying on him to be the regular starter. At least another central defender should be on his way.

 

And don’t rule out one or two Elite Development Squad loanees to come and replace the departed Facey and Angelino. Vieira’s knowledge of the EDS players, and those players’ comfort with him almost guarantees that we’ll see some Manchester City trained talent in the Bronx come March.


Exciting times for New York City fans, as ever, and that’s one of the joys of supporting a big, ambitious club -- there’s always shiny new toys, and reason for hope every season. Enjoy the ride, New York, and keep making history.

Nick CHAVEZ

Nationality:
USA
College:
SCSU
Club Domestic:
NYCFC
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid CF
This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.
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