Getting to know NYCFC with Hudson River Blue

To preview the Saturday matchup between the Vancouver Whitecaps and NYCFC, we got together with Hudson River Blue to discuss what has been going on with the New York team since they travelled to BC Place in March of last year, as well as what to expect on Saturday.

This is our chat with Oliver Strand, Executive Editor at Hudson River Blue.

Looking back at when these two teams played early on in 2022, only three starters from that match were in the starting XI midweek against Montreal. How would you describe the team’s evolution over that time? Especially when comparing the 3rd place finish in the East last season with the team’s current standing in 13th place.

Hudson River Blue: It’s a completely different team soup to nuts. But don’t call it a rebuild! The supporters and club don’t like to use the R word, never mind that the attack, midfield, defense, goalkeeper, and coaching staff are significantly changed.

Long story short: NYCFC loaned Taty Castellanos in July of 2022 and didn’t replace him until the summer transfer window this year. This team have been woefully short not just on goals, but on goal-scoring threats — NYCFC have been held scoreless 11 times this season. Add that to a rebuilt defense and two goalkeepers vying for a starting spot neither have sealed up and you have what you have, namely a fragile team sitting in 13th place in the East.

That said, the club added six players in the summer transfer window. Are they gelling? Yes. But this is where the team should have been in March and April. It’s asking a lot for this new-look lineup to click into place while fighting to get a playoff spot.

What has been an underrated storyline this season for NYCFC that people outside the market, or people who don’t follow the team closely, might not know about?

Hudson River Blue: This NYCFC is a youth movement: It’s the second-youngest roster in MLS after the New Jersey Red Bulls, and NYCFC’s Starting XI have been younger than their opponent in all but three games this season. Even the new signings are young: Striker Mounsef Bakrar is 22, winger Julián Fernández is 19. This might be a rough year for the club, but this young team will be that much more experienced next season.

Also: It looks like there’s some discontent behind the scenes? Club legend Maxime Chanot just left for AC Ajaccio after almost eight years at NYCFC, and he took to Twitter for the first time in five-plus years to drop hints about who created a “difficult moment.”

What kind of effect, both in terms of playing style and the culture of the team and supporter base, has playing at Yankee stadium had? What impact do you think the new stadium project will have for the future of the club?

Hudson River Blue: So many people throw shade at NYCFC’s totally regulation-sized pitches at Yankee Soccer Stadium and Citi Soccer Field it’s hard to keep track. The assumption was that the Craven Cottage-sized fields give NYCFC an unfair advantage. Well, a thoroughly mediocre home record this year of 5 wins, 5 draws, and 3 losses disproves that theory. Shows what they know.

Instead, it seems that NYCFC were simply a really good team that took advantage of playing at home.

Hopefully, that will continue to be the case when the new stadium opens in 2027. It should be an incredible experience for home fans, and a place for opposing teams to fear.

Starting XI and score prediction?

Hudson River Blue: The Starting XI is maybe the hardest question you can ask. Head coach Nick Cushing has played the same Starting XI exactly twice this season, and that was way back in the spring. He keeps mixing it up – different formations, different players – but here’s a guess:

Vancouver are a tough team to play – they almost always manage to score, even on the road – but I have to give the advantage to this NYCFC. I predict NYCFC 3 -1 Vancouver.

Alright, that was our chat with the folks out east, be sure to check out our interview with them on their site as well. Do you think the Whitecaps can go three for three this week on the road? Let me know in the comments!

(Image Credit: NYCFC)

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