With the start of the 2015 MLS season less than a month away, New York City Football Club have prepared for their upcoming season as guests of the Manchester City training grounds. Marquee player David Villa can be seen running drills and practicing plays with various signed and unsigned players, demonstrating the true variety that makes up NYCFC.
There are names at NYC known throughout MLS, such as Chris Wingert, or veteran Ned Grabavoy, who contribute to the structure and identity of this blossoming team. However there are many unfamiliar faces representing NYCFC. Getting to know this team means getting to know the unheralded individuals who will be crucial for success in the inaugural season.
A strong core of defensemen will be crucial for success going forward for Manager Jason Kreis, as he develops a team predicated on ball possession and control. Importantly the defense will need to be able to accurately clear up field while being aware, and nimble enough, to cover an oncoming counter.
New York recently signed Ecuadorian Center back Andres Mendoza to aid with that task. The 6’2” 25-year-old defensemen played professionally in Ecuador since 2007 while his longest tenure was spent playing for Universidad Católica making 86 appearances in two years. Viewing some of his highlights online, he has the ability to play a strong and intelligent defensive game.
His ability in the air from set pieces and his artful passes to clear the ball out of danger demonstrates an ability to be at the right place at the right time, as well as to alleviate oncoming pressures from the opposition. Nicknamed, “Belleza,” or “beauty” during his time in Ecuador, Mendoza bared the beauty of his power during his latest appearance on the pitch.
In NYCFC’s second preseason match, against Danish side Brondby, Mendoza unleashed a booming a free kick from 40 yards out, that dipped to land just above the cross bar. Mendoza’s strike, one of the best offensive moments of the match for New York, did nothing if not show the potential of the young man.
Despite some lapses in communication, the midfield and defense, which again were playing only their second game together as a team, showed absolute promise. Another member of the defense who was on display against Brondby was 27 year old Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
Acquired on August 11th of 2014 the University of Connecticut alum spent his early professional career with the Chicago Fire making a total of 10 appearances. The young back was then traded to Real Salt Lake lead by Coach Jason Kreis.
His two-year bid from 2012-2014 was shortened due to injury, and midway through the 2013 season, he was traded to New York City FC for a 2016 fourth round pick. Watson-Sirobe provides depth to the defensive position. He will be looking to make a stable home in New York after making 19 appearences, and suffering a torn ACL during his time at Real Salt Lake.
Jason Kreis’s contentment with the acquisition was apparent as he had this to say of the young man during a press release, “I am really happy to be able to continue my work with Kwame. He is a player that was great to coach and I’m confident he will be able to contribute to the strength and shape of our back line as we continue to build towards our first game in March 2015.”
The 6’3” defensemen has few highlights to speak of, contributing to a number of clean sheets during his time at Real Salt Lake. Notably there have been a number of examples online where Watson-Siriboe demonstrated a fiery side that had lead to dismissal via red card. It will be interesting to see what he can bring to the table as a possible substitute, and if he can channel that passion into positive results.
If you haven’t heard of defenseman Josh Williams you will get to know the name as he moves to the bigger stage in New York City. Former Columbus Crew back Williams carries with him significant MLS experience, though he may not be as well known as some of the other recently acquired NYC players.
Williams was traded to NYCFC on December 8th 2014 reportedly in exchange for Allocation money. He has played in 71 matches for the Columbus side since 2010 contributing to the defense. Williams aided the Crew to the MLS Eastern Conference Semi-Final in 2014 marking their first playoff appearance since 2011, though they lost to the New England Revolution.
His proactive play has shown him to be a threat in the air, that will aid in defending opposition set pieces as well as provide a threat on the offensive side of the pitch. Williams is quick to the ball on the defensive end, and fearless in his challenges and tackles.
His smart play with the ball at his feet was on display in NYCFC’s loss to Brondby on February 13th, where he was able to stabilize the back line whilst moving the ball up the wing and out.
Williams, utilizing his speed in his first start for New York, was exciting for an individual watching closely, as you could see chemistry building in a young team still working out some kinks. The defender played a more advanced position in the match vs. Brondby, so expect the young defensemen to contribute positively in what ever role he is given.