The New York City FC roster is a big question mark right now

Inter Miami v New York City FC
Inter Miami v New York City FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

Recently, big names have left New York City FC, either because of personal choices or moves by the club.  There have been more departures compared to additions, and many from the 2021 MLS Cup championship are now gone.

Of course, Valentín Castellanos left in the middle of the 2022 campaign on loan to Girona FC, and rightfully so.  However, after the season ended, Anton Tinnerholm and Maxi Moralez left to return home, Nicolás Acevedo left on loan, and Héber was just traded to Seattle Sounders FC.

It is understandable for the likes of Tinnerholm, who wanted to be closer to his home, and Moralez, who always wanted to end his career in Argentina, to leave.  Both are tough losses, but again, it makes sense.  It is still puzzling though that Acevedo left, especially because his growth was tremendous over the last few years. 

It was questionable that Héber was traded away as well.  At this moment, the Pigeons do not have a true striker or center-forward available to be a difference maker.  The Brazilian has slowly been coming back since his ACL injury, and it is always possible he would have resumed his 2019 campaign in 2023.  He was also a favorite amongst the team and fan base, so it is difficult to watch him leave. 

New York City FC’s roster is very much up in the air for 2023

Meanwhile, Alexander Callens, Justin Haak, and Sean Johnson are now out of contract, and their futures with New York City FC are up in the air.  Ideally, all three will return, but the lack of information does not exert confidence.  Although, there are reports on Twitter that Callens was trying to negotiate with the club, but there is an issue with the salary.  As a result, it was reported on Tuesday evening that the center-back was unable to negotiate a new contract.

As always, such information must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, NYCFC would be absolutely silly to let their star defender go, and he deserves to be paid a nice chunk of change.  Unfortunately, the still questioned move to sign Thiago Martins as a Designated Player might be the hurdle that will not allow the re-signing of the Peruvian international. That should not matter though; the club should be doing everything to bring Callens back.  

Then, there is a lack of information on NYCFC Captain, Sean Johnson.  The goalkeeper is still playing at a high level, and his dedication and love for the Pigeons has been crystal clear throughout his tenure.  He is a great leader too, so it is concerning that there is mostly silence regarding his future. 

Additionally, Santiago Rodríguez is officially back with Montevideo City Torque, for his loan has expired.  The Uruguayan was another vital piece to the lineup, for he could play well on the wings and center-attacking midfield.  In fact, many thought he could be the replacement for Moralez.  It is unknown, and unlikely, that Rodríguez returns.  It would not be shocking if the midfielder attempts to move overseas to continue his growth. 

Also, Vuk Latinovich and Gedion Zelalem had their options declined, which was not surprising due to their lack of contribution on the pitch.  However, Matías Pellegrini was brought back on waivers despite having his option initially declined.  This was a questionable move, but perhaps the club still believes the Argentine has something to offer. 

Pellegrini was not the only player that was brought in for 2023.  NYCFC brought in José ‘Tony’ Alfaro, who spent his last two seasons with D.C. United.  The defender will likely be utilized as a depth player, for he predominantly plays as a center-back.  Moreover, Sporting Director David Lee mentioned that he was brought in for those exact reasons: depth and the center-back position.   

New York City FC has a lot of work to despite some signings

Fortunately, New York City FC did make one major signing. On Wednesday, the club announced the addition of Mitja Ilenič.  The 18 year old is a right-back and was highly regarded by multiple clubs.  He would compete with Tayvon Gray for the starting position, and would give depth in case either player has to miss time. Moreover, he is more attack-minded compared to Gray, so it will be interesting what the club has planned for both in 2023.

Nonetheless, there is no question the club has quite a bit of work to do.  For starters, a striker should be the top priority, for there is no one right now.  Yes, Nick Cushing would likely argue that Talles Magno can start up front and center.  But, he had quite a few starts there in the second half of last season.  Ultimately, he has proved his best production is on the wings, and that is where he should play to continue his development. 

At this moment, there are no rumors about strikers.  There is still under two months left before the 2023 season begins, so there is time.  Hopefully NYCFC has something up their sleeves, because they cannot start the season without a proven goal scorer. 

Another priority is the need for a midfielder or two.  Moralez has to be replaced, and now without Acevedo, the injury history for Keaton Parks and Alfredo Morales makes the midfield too fragile and unprotected.  Both attacking and defensive midfielders are a must, and again, NYCFC cannot start their next campaign without new signings.

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There is so much up in the air at this time.  Between the threat of losing two more starters in Callens and Johnson, and the lack of signings, supporters are worried about the future.  It is important to reiterate there is still plenty of time before the Major League Soccer season begins, but it does not help the worrying.  Hopefully announcements, mainly positive, will occur sooner, rather than later, and that New York City FC will prove their competitive ability with new signings.