Following the honeymoon-esque feelings of affection towards New York City FC that succeeded their 2-0 win at St. Mirren, it seems that fans had little to worry about going into their game against Brondby at the City Football Academy. Two well-taken goals in the team’s first game, as well as a hard-earned clean sheet, certainly reflected well on the potential New York have to become a strong team.
However, even the most ingenuous of fans had to have told himself that one game means as little as the pre-season announcement of Frank Lampard’s signing. So, therefore, eyes darted toward Brondby, one of Denmark’s most celebrated clubs, now captained by former Liverpool mainstay Daniel Agger.
It was certainly a game that promised a bigger challenge than St. Mirren, and it seems the match lived up to the promise.
Despite the best efforts of New York City’s attacking lineup, the team couldn’t outdo the Danes, with NYCFC’s defensive shortcomings the liability that sealed their fate. The game finished 2-0 to Brondby.
While this could also serve as reason to call for offensive improvements (no goals against a not necessarily huge opponent isn’t great, obviously), what many brought away from the game was a longing for defensive solidity.
Yes, Jason Kreis chopped and changed his lineup as much as humanly possible, to get a feel for those he’s coaching, yet both Brondby goals could have easily been prevented, should the back line have been on their game. Both goals also were somewhat similar; the space the Brondby goalscorers scored from came from the wingback getting drawn towards the ball, a cardinal sin for defenders, particularly when a striker is loitering behind.
The poor defending on show at the City Football Academy is a clear indication that, should Jason Kreis and the NYCFC executives opt to snap up a late-in-the-day Designated Player, the player has got to be a defender; a (preferrably) experienced man at the back able to cut out attacks like Brondby’s, as well as shore up the backline with a commanding voice.
In midfield, they will have Lampard. In attack, they will have David Villa. Yet who will New York City showcase at the back?
Although New York can boast a plethora of talent, they lack what quality MLS juggernauts can claim: a true presence in the defense.
In the center, Andres Mendoza is certainly a big unit, but he’s yet to exhibit a consistent penchant for calming the back line. Not that he is in any way a bad defender, it’s just easy to tell that he’s come into a whole new environment with his move from Ecuador.
Along with him, the other center-halves New York City have are Kwame Watson-Siriboe (again, a physical presence, but not an immediate choice as a stand-out defender that could really add to the backline), Josh Williams (who has a decent amount of MLS experience but has yet to be a player touted as more than a member of a squad. Seems to have the potential to become more, but at this point, there’s not enough evidence to really expect such), and George John, who has shown to be injury-prone and has yet to live up to his post-college expectations.
The most likely candidate to make their mark in the defence is Jason Hernandez, who boasts 218 total regular season MLS appearances, and does bring a level of experience to the side. However, even in his eight seasons at the San Jose Earthquakes, he didn’t hold down a solid place in the defense, aside from 2011, where he only missed six matches.
In his final two years, on the other hand, he missed around a third of San Jose’s MLS games. Not to say that he couldn’t feature heavily for New York this coming season, but in a team that has already been given high hopes (New York have a 15/1 chance of winning the MLS Cup, say Las Vegas oddsmakers SuperBook), it’s not much of a far fetched expectation that the next big name to join should be a center back.
There’s been little talk of any center backs coming as of yet, with any rumors simply a result of fan speculation at who could join at contract’s end this season (one of my heroes, Martin Demichelis, is even being mentioned); but if there’s been no discussions within New York at which center backs could join from top leagues, that’s a big mistake.