BBefore New York City FC, there was only Manchester City under the umbrella of the City Football Group (CFG). The creation of Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise in 2013 marked the creation of a new global football entity that was soon to spanning five continents and has several clubs among its network, but CFG’s first outpost outside the UK was in New York.
It was to the benefit of NYC FC. While Manchester City has always been CFG’s primary focus, a strong bond has been forged between the Premier League and MLS siblings. Four City players were signed to the NYC FC squad for their first season in 2015. Over the next few years, City sent some of their prospects (including Angelino and Yangel Herrera) to the Bronx for experience in the first team and NYC FC sent some of their best players the other way – see Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison.
Now, however, traffic between the two clubs has slowed almost to a complete standstill. In fact, CFG is channeling more and more players a way from New York. NYC FC, who haven’t received a player directly from Manchester City in recent years, have apparently fallen down the CFG pecking order.
Alexander Callens, for example, left NYC FC at the end of his contract to sign for Girona, the Spanish La Liga club partly owned by CFG and Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere. Callens was an integral part of Nick Cushing’s squad but that didn’t stop CFG from placing the defender at another of their clubs.
This happened just six months after NYC FC’s best player and top scorer Taty Castellanos was also sent to Girona. Even more painfully, the Argentine striker was sent to Spain on loan – Castellanos is still technically on NYC FC’s books. Replacing Castellanos mid-season was impossible and Cushing has yet to find a goalscorer who can fill his boots.
Santi Rodriguez was sent back to Montevideo City Torque, a Uruguayan club acquired by CFG in 2017, at the end of last season while Nico Acevedo’s loan from Bahia also ended almost as soon as CFG bought a majority stake in the Brazilian club last month. . Meanwhile, NYC FC are yet to make a single notable new signing for the 2023 MLS season, which begins in less than a month – Tony Alfaro, Matt Freese, Mitja Ilenic and Gabriel Segal are all deep additions.
Even if NYC FC manages to bring in new players before their opener against Nashville on Feb. 25, their roster rebuild won’t be complete. Talles Magno has the potential to become the club’s new No.9 while Thiago Andrade will receive more playing time now that competition for places has been eliminated. Tayvon Gray is another youngster that NYC FC fans are excited to see more of. There are, however, too many holes to plug a single off-season.
The disintegration of the NYC FC team is all the more remarkable considering it was less than two years ago. 2021 saw the franchise win their first-ever MLS Cuplargely thanks to good identification and recruitment, but this winning team was quickly broken up. Of the 11 players who started the league game against Portland, only three – Gray, Maxime Chanot and Alfredo Morales – are still at the club (Castellanos and James Sands are on loan). In a way, winning the MLS Cup was the worst thing that ever happened to NYC FC.
The CFG can say it is focused on building a long-term sustainable future for NYC FC through construction of a new stadium. After years of play on a baseball field at Yankee Stadium, plans for a new 25,000-seat venue in Queens were announced in November. A permanent home will finally allow NYC FC to put down roots, but at an estimated cost of $780 million.
The outlay could affect transfer activity carried out by NYC FC’s front office, despite the club being among the best in MLS for finding talent. “We’re not going to rush to add any players,” Cushing said. “We have seen over the years that we can spot talent…whether through the academy or the transfer market.” Indeed, it is entirely possible that the next cycle of NYC FC will bring as much success as the previous one, even if the start of the 2023 season is difficult.
Originally founded as one of MLS’s flagship franchises with the power to attract some of the biggest names in the sport, the CFG has since transformed NYC FC into a club that develops players for others. In the hierarchy of the CFG, NYC FC no longer occupies the position it occupied only a few years ago, certainly when it was created ten years ago. Once called Manchester City’s sister team, they are now more like a distant cousin.