Here is a first look at the preseason for New York City FC.
The time has finally arrived: New York City FC and the rest of MLS are finally in preseason. The Pigeons started their preseason up in New York, allowing players to arrive and go through COVID protocol. So far, there have been no announced positive tests, which is always a good sign. Then, the club traveled to Florida on March 8. Only Héber, who is recovering from his ACL injury, will not join the club.
While in the Sunshine State, NYCFC will play four friendly matches, with two in Orlando and two in St. Petersburg. Later on, two more friendlies are scheduled to be played in New York. Thus far, games against Chicago Fire FC, Orlando City SC, and Nashville SC have been announced. Playing preseason matches against Eastern Conference teams will allow the club to get a look at their opponents. It will help them prepare for regular season meetings later on in the year too. Every game played will also allow Ronny Deila and his staff to look at their draft picks and NYCFC Academy players.
Additionally, the club announced on March 8 their travel roster for Florida. As of now, there are no trialists. However, six academy players have joined the club for preseason, and then the two draft picks as well. One shocking exclusion from the academy players is Osaze De Rosario. There are some rumors that he left the academy, and might be trying his luck with Europe, but nothing has been confirmed. Although, per Tranfer Markt, it shows he is without a club. If true, then De Rosario was the type of player NYCFC should have signed to a Homegrown contract right away, for his potential is endless.
Also, NYCFC surprisingly announced the return of Gedion Zelalem. The 24 year old originally had his contract declined by the club for 2021, and has been plagued by poor form and injuries over the last few years. Perhaps the Pigeons wanted to give Zelalem a chance, for he only played in one game last season before injury hampered him. Per sporting director David Lee, the team believes he has potential, and would like to see him on the pitch for 2021.
Meanwhile, the preseason roster is still without two Designated Players. At this rate, the club might wait until the summer transfer window to sign such players, or even any big-name signings. Yet, there is still time, for the season does not begin until April 17. In the past, there have been instances where players were signed during preseason, including Maxi Moralez and Alexandru Mitriță. Furthermore, Deila told the media he expects a few more signings before the start of the season.
In complete honesty, the roster is obviously not complete. There are questions on whether the team can compete with the top teams in the league, let alone a playoff spot. But, if there is no player available right now, then it would not make sense to sign someone just to fill the contract, especially Designated Player contracts.
It is difficult for New Yorkers, but fans might have no choice but to be patient with signings. Rather than judge the club now, fans should wait until after the summer transfer window. Plus, the pandemic is having an impact on signings in leagues all over the world. With the vaccine and slowdown in cases, there is hope the summer window will allow more opportunities for transfers to occur.
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So, right now the preseason for NYCFC is just getting started. The Pigeons have a lot of work to do, but fortunately the team has over a month to get ready. Yes, there are questions on whether the current roster can find success at the start of the season. Yes, there is still concern on whether the Pigeons will bring in any major signings this season. Alas, only time will tell, and maybe New York City FC will shock the league.