New York City FC: Roster update January 2022

CHESTER, PA - DECEMBER 05: The starting line up for New York City FC stand for the national anthem with arms locked together at the start of the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Eastern Conference Final match against the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on December 05, 2021 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
CHESTER, PA - DECEMBER 05: The starting line up for New York City FC stand for the national anthem with arms locked together at the start of the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Eastern Conference Final match against the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on December 05, 2021 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images) /

New York City FC and their fans are still on a high after winning the MLS Cup back on December 11, 2021.  After a season of ups and downs, many did not expect the Pigeons to make it to the Eastern Conference finals and win, and afterwards go to Portland and take home the ultimate prize.

However, it was meant to be, and now NYCFC are going into 2022 with their first two trophies.  Despite the success, the focus now has to be on the new season, and with the new season comes roster changes.  There have already been departures, and some vital ones too.

Additionally, the club has yet to make any new signings.  Yes, they did draft three players in the MLS Superdraft, but none of the players are guaranteed a contract.  Meanwhile the most recent signing, Christian McFarlane, was signed as a Homegrown player back in September, so he does not count; not even counting the fact that it will be a couple of years before the 14-year-old defender makes his senior debut.

All that said, the Pigeons presently have a strong roster. They still have the center-back pairing of Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens, and captain Sean Johnson is still the leader in goal.  Maxi Moralez is back for at least one more year, and now the likes of Thiago and Talles Magno have the opportunity to become starters.

The New York City FC roster, as it stands in mid-January of 2022

Despite having some talented players, there is no question updates are needed to the roster.  As of now, New York City FC has lost six players, including a few starters.

After the MLS Cup win, the club announced they declined the options for Jesús Medina, Tony Rocha, Gudmundur Thórarinsson, and Juan Pablo Torres.  Torres spent the majority of 2021 on loan and made zero appearances for NYCFC, whereas Rocha was used sparingly throughout the year.  Those moves were expected, and the same goes for Medina too.  While the past season was arguably his best, he never met the level of what was expected as a Young Designated Player signing.  Medina evidently contributed to the MLS Cup run, but it was time to move on.

The more surprising departure was clearly Thórarinsson.  Even though Malte Amundsen improved as the season progressed, Thórarinsson was the higher quality left-back, for he was better in the attacking third.  The Icelandic international was a tremendous part of the end of the season and playoff run; it was his goal in Atlanta after all that sparked the unbeaten streak.  The reason for his departure may be due to personal reasons; perhaps he wanted to move back to Europe.  But if it was a decision by the club, then that particular decision is truly poor.

Currently, only one of the original four departures have a new club.  On Monday, it was announced Medina made the move to Russia, and signed a contract with PFC CSKA Moscow as a free agent.  Hopefully the former Young DP will have success with his new club.

In addition, NYCFC lost Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in the expansion draft, and then Charlotte FC traded the player to Los Angeles FC.  Sure, his starts were reduced in 2021, but he gave his all whenever he played, even when coming off the bench.  The Libyan international was a fan favorite, and will be missed.

The greatest loss though, but for a good reason, is James Sands.  The first NYCFC Homegrown player was loaned to Rangers FC for 18 months, and then the Scottish club has the option to buy.  This is a good step for the 21 year old, and his new club will hopefully further his development.  Sands gave his all to the Pigeons, and will be missed too, but he deserves the move to Europe.

New York City FC know that new signings are needed

As mentioned, the likes of Thiago and Magno will should step up for New York City FC.  Both have the talent to start, and at least one of them will take over for Medina.  Regarding Sands, Nicolás Acevedo, Alfredo Morales, and Keaton Parks will share the central defensive midfield roles.  In fact, 2022 might be the year Acevedo takes the next step at becoming a star in MLS.

Nevertheless, new signings are needed, whether to compete as starters or to back-up the current ones.  Recently, MLS Multiplex discussed possible signings for the club.  Those players were merely suggestions, but the positions discussed hold truth.  NYCFC desperately needs a center-back and right-back, for Chanot and Callens are both consistently called up to their national teams, and then Tayvon Gray is the only healthy right-back.  It was actually surprising the club did not draft a defender in the SuperDraft.

Most importantly, whether it is before the season begins or during the summer transfer window, Valentín Castellanos will move to a new club.  His time to make the jump is now, and both he and NYCFC are aware of that.  Hence, the Pigeons must sign a forward.  While all of the draft picks are forwards, there is no guarantee any of the three are ready to play in MLS.  There is also no guarantee Héber will be the striker they had in 2019 before his struggles in 2020 and the ACL injury.  The club desperately needs to sign a new goal scorer, either before the the new season or before Castellanos transfers to a new club.

The club should look toward the future too, and possibly bring in an attacking midfielder to eventually replace Moralez.  Since the Argentine will be with the club for at least one more year, it would be smart to find someone young who can learn from the veteran player, and then be handed the torch once Moralez is ready to move on or retire.

Regardless of the need for new signings, the MLS Cup Champions are lucky to be moving forward with the majority of their starting and contributing players.  There is a lot of talent within the squad, and whoever they eventually sign will just add to the talent.  But as of January, New York City FC is in good shape with their roster.  It is only a matter of time before the club signs new additions to help their quest for more success in 2022.

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