Thiago Martins must step up for New York City FC in 2023

Thiago Martins of New York City FC
Thiago Martins of New York City FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

When New York City FC announced the signing of Thiago Martins in 2022, there were mixed emotions.  Supporters were happy that the team brought in a talented center-back, especially since the club did not have solid backups for Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot.  However, many did not agree with signing a center-back to a Designated Player contract, and did not understand why the Pigeons made such a decision.

Nonetheless, the move was made, and Martins became a part of the lineup in 2022.  He had a decent season with some highlight moments, but made too many mistakes, including costly ones.  He did not live up to his DP price tag, and was clearly nowhere near the talent level of Callens.

Then, it is believed that Callens did not return because NYCFC already had a DP defender, and the club could not afford to pay two center-backs such high salaries.  There is no doubt the Pigeons wanted their star back, but due to Major League Soccer salary restrictions, it was an impossible move.  Although, Callens could have returned; the front office did not want to spend the majority of their money on the defense.

As a result, Martins’ contract easily can attribute to why Callens was not re-signed.  This can make fans bitter, and cause a dislike towards the Brazilian.  Whether that is the outcome for the New York City FC player is yet to be seen, but if there is one thing that certain, then it is the following: Martins must step up in 2023. 

Thiago Martins has no choice but to step up for New York City FC

The pressure is clearly on for the New York City FC defender.  Not only does Martins need to prove his DP contract, but he must play just as well as Callens did in the last couple of seasons.  He has to decrease his mistakes tenfold, and cannot be the player who causes losses, or loss of points. 

One of Martins’ worst games occurred last year in a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati.  The center-back was not only responsible for an own goal, but was also sent off via a red card.  His mistake and sendoff ultimately led the Pigeons to gain just one point, which at the time was a devastating draw.  As already known, the team would pull themselves together to go on another playoff run, but at the time the anger towards the center-back was there. 

Of course, there were multiple moments in 2022 where Martins failed to live up to expectations.  He missed quite a few tackles, miscalculated where opposing players would go, and even had some poor distribution moments where he gave the ball away.

2023 has to be the year where he limits his mistakes, and he must step up to be not only a great defender for NYCFC, but one of the best in MLS.  He has a year under his belt with the team, so that should help him be more comfortable in the backline during matches.  He also has a developed chemistry with the remaining defenders, so that should help as well. 

Martins needs to become a wall too.  When others fail, he must step in and stop opportunities from opposing players.  He needs to make it difficult for others to get around him, and force them to move away from goal or take terrible shots.  His blocking abilities must increase, and ideally he will have the highest number of clearances amongst his teammates.  In other words, he has to be better.

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If Martins does not step up for New York City FC, then he can easily become the most hated DP in team history.  With that being said, supporters want him to play well.  Hopefully he can step up in 2023, and prove his worth to both his team and the fans.