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New York City FC: A look at the 2022 end-of-year roster decisions

Caitlyn Chale
New York City FC v New England Revolution
New York City FC v New England Revolution / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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On Tuesday, New York City FC announced their end-of-the-year roster decisions.  Three players had their options declined, while four players are out of contract at the end of the year.  Then, four players had their options picked up, and three players have new contracts or extensions.

Most of the decisions were expected, like the departure of Matías Pellegrini.  In addition, it was nice to see that Maxi Moralez will be returning for another season, and all three of the NYCFC II players who were signed for both squads will be back.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of questions about the roster, and whether those whose contracts expire at the end of 2022 will be back. 

As it goes, here is a look at the roster decisions by New York City FC.

Options that were picked up by New York City FC and new contracts

New York City FC announced that Maxi Moralez, Kevin O’Toole, Nicolas Benalcazar, and Jonathan Jimenez all had their options picked up.  Benalcazar and Jimenez both had successful seasons with NYCFC II, so possibly they will have more opportunities with the first team in 2023.  At the same time, they could possibly spend time with both sides as they continue to grow.

O’Toole proved himself at the end of the year when he got some starts under his belt as the left-back.  Clearly there is potential there, and Nick Cushing wants to see what he can do in 2023. 

Of course, the best news is about Moralez.  Since NYCFC has picked up his option, then there is no doubt he will be around for the new season.  If the midfielder wanted to return home to Argentina, then the team would have declined his option, and made fans aware of his plans.  As such, that means the club returns one of their star players, which is always a good thing.

Additionally, new contracts were agreed for Cody Mizell and Samuel Owusu.

However, the biggest announcement was the contract extension for Tayvon Gray.  The club announced the young right-back has signed through 2025, and will have an option for 2026.  The move was the right one, especially since Anton Tinnerholm is departing the club. 

Gray is turning into a talented right-back, and continuously grows game after game.  He still has a long way to go, but he could possibly become the top right-back in Major League Soccer.

Options that were declined by New York City FC

New York City FC declined options for the following players: Vuk Latinovich, Matías Pellegrini, and Gedion Zelalem.  Both Latinovich and Zelalem never played to their potentials, so the moves made perfect sense.  Zelalem especially was a player with so much promise, and sadly he has not found any form of success, both in Europe and here in the United States.

Pellegrini, who was brought over during the summer, was the least surprising move.  Truthfully, it was puzzling when the Pigeons claimed him off waivers, and he never made an impact. 

New York City FC players that are leaving as free agents

On Monday, New York City FC officially announced that Tinnerholm was leaving the club and MLS.  The defender will sign with his old club, Malmö FF.

As sad as it is to see Tinnerholm leave New York, it was expected.  When the season ended, Tinnerholm spoke with a Swedish site, Expressen, and said how he wanted to return home.  The right-back has two young daughters, and it makes sense that he wants to raise them closer to his family.  If he wanted to return, then likely NYCFC would have brought him back.  Between him and Gray, the right-back position would be strong no matter who played.  Alas, Tinnerholm will always be loved by the fans, and hopefully he will have success for the rest of his career. 

Players that are TBD for New York City FC

Finally, New York City FC has three more players that have their contracts expiring at the end of the year: Alexander Callens, Sean Johnson, and Justin Haak.  Plus, the loan period for Santiago Rodríguez will expire on December 31.  Notably, Sporting Director David Lee did allude that conversations are happening with these players.

For Haak, he still has a lot of growing to do, and ideally would be back based on his potential.  It would not be shocking if he chose to go elsewhere in order to guarantee more consistent playing time.

Fans might be mixed on Rodríguez, but it would be nice for the Pigeons to permanently sign him.  He has not been perfect, but he has had numerous games where he was vital to the team, whether through his work on the wings or in the midfield.  His versatility and ability to fill in for Moralez is a huge plus as well.  He should be brought back, unless City Football Group plans on moving him to Europe right away.

Most importantly, both Callens and Johnson are huge question marks, and are both eligible for free agency.  Both are hot commodities, so NYCFC should do everything to bring them back.  They are top players in their positions, were critical in the 2021 MLS Cup run, and then of course Callens had his biggest season with the team in 2022. 

If both were to leave, then the Pigeons would be under tremendous pressure to find their replacements.  Although, there is some argument Luis Barraza is ready to take over for Johnson.  But who would want the captain to leave when he is still performing at a top level in MLS?

Overall, the end-of-year roster decisions were the correct moves, with the exceptions of not signing Callens and Johnson to extensions already.  New York City FC has a lot of work to do, but then again, this is the case for every offseason.   

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