The new season is just a few weeks away as New York City FC continues their preseason preparations ahead of the February 24 match versus Charlotte FC. The Pigeons have made some offseason accusations, bringing on Hannes Wolf and Alex Rando. They also signed Andrés Perea to a permanent contract.
However, who are the two main players that need to step up for NYCFC as the team heads into the new season?
Two NYCFC players must step up
All eyes on Mounsef Bakrar
Bakrar is preparing for his first full season in Major League Soccer as all eyes are on him to produce the goals for the team. Since the departure of Valentín Castellanos, NYCFC was left without a striker, struggling to win games while failing to produce from the attack. The addition of Bakrar in July of last year was the light the team was missing.
Despite a slow start, he ended up with three goals on 28 shots (nine accurate) during his first 10 MLS regular season appearances. Most players who join the league for the first time take a while to adjust, which has turned into a fast-paced game the last few seasons.
Bakrar is key to the team’s attack as he is set to be the top striker, with the potential of Julián Fernández playing alongside him in a 4-4-2 format. He is also capable of scoring goals, as he recorded eight goals with three assists in 31 appearances with NK Istra 1961 in Croatia before making the move to NYCFC.
Consistency is key for Santiago Rodríguez
Santiago Rodríguez will enter his fourth year with NYCFC and will look to return to the top of his game following an inconsistent 2023 season. The midfielder recorded 13 regular season assists during the 2022 season, which was among the league leaders. However, his total delined in 2023, for he had eight.
With a striker, Rodríguez is a fiend with his skills and accurate aim to find strikers in the box. The departure of Castellanos affected his style of play, to a point where he was forced to play as a false nine at times. Once he and Bakrar create a lethal chemistry, it will be huge for the team’s attack.
Rodríguez did not have an awful 2023, as he played in almost every minute of the matches played while only missing two games. He did struggle to play in different positions to accommodate the lack of a number nine. With Bakrar, he can keep his consistent attacking center midfield position and will look to provide more assists for New York City FC again in 2024.