New York City FC has one home game and one road game in the books. the MLS expansion side, under Head Coach Jason Kreis, has been impressive thus far, taking 4 out of 6 possible points.
They started with a 1-1 draw at fellow expansion side Orlando City SC, before defeating defending Eastern Conference Champion New England Revolution 2-0 in their home opener.
Through two matches, Kreis has deployed 16 players on the pitch, each bringing a certain excitement and speculation to them. Here are the 5 most impressive players thus far for NYCFC.
5. Jason Hernandez, CB
The biggest question surrounding the team before the season was how the defense would hold up. With the back four undecided going into the season, Kreis opted to go with Jason Hernandez and Chris Wingert at the back, and they have not disappointed. The Blues have gone against two of the premier attacking threats in the MLS, in Kaka and Lee Nyugen, and have only conceded one goal, and none from open play. Hernandez, in particular, has been stoic at the back, and is giving Kreis a legitimate option for a number one center back. Two games, and two stellar performances from Jason Hernandez.
4. Khiry Shelton, RW
Shelton is the only player on this list to not have started – the other four have started both games. The rookie winger, who went second overall in the MLS Draft, has been sensational on the right hand side. Shelton brings tons of pace and an electric presence moving forward. In his first 10 minutes against Orlando, Shelton nearly scored and assisted. Against New England, the first minute he was on, he forced a red card. Two of NYCFC’s three goals this season have been with Shelton on the pitch, proving how valuable he’s been. Kreis said that in the future, Shelton will be a star striker. The question is, will be continue to keep Shelton as a super sub, or start him over Mehdi Ballouchy and Sebastian Velasquez. Regardless, expect to see a lot of Khiry Shelton this season.
3. Mix Diskerud, CAM
United States Mens National Team midfielder Mix Diskerud has been stellar in his first two games with the club. He recored 97 touches against the Revolution, which gave him the team-high in touches for the second consecutive match. NYCFC’s possession offense often flows through the Norwegian-American man, who has certainly helped fans forget that Frank Lampard is currently playing in Manchester. Diskerud scored the teams first ever goal against Orlando, and was solid again against New England. He’s currently occupying the fabled number ten role for the club, and has done well to provide service to strikers David Villa and Adam Nemec, as well as help sustain possession.
2. Josh Saunders, GK
Former Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders has gone from a placeholder #1 keeper to a fan favorite, whose warrior-like display against Orlando instantly endeared him to fans. Saunders smashed his head against the post, then bloodied his head up, and still managed to keep Orlando’s high octane offense at bay. Saunders has only let one goal by him, off a deflection on a free kick. He hasn’t conceded from open play, and there haven’t been any real moments of panic for him at the back. While Ryan Meara and Akira Fitzgerald are certainly capable, Saunders won’t be surrendering the starting gig anytime soon.
1. David Villa, ST
Who else? NYCFC’s first ever player, their captain, and their only current designated player is David Villa, and boy has he played the part. Despite being bottled up in the opener against Orlando, Villa still managed to assist the teams first ever goal. While he was flustered by Orlando’s defense, which gave him very little space to operate, Villa still managed to make an impact. Against the Revolution, he ran rampant. He scored the teams first ever home goal, curling a shot in after a brilliant one-two exchange with Ned Grabavoy, and could have easily had two more goals, if not for a heroic display by Bobby Shuttleworth, New England’s keeper. Villa then took a through ball from Grabavoy, marauded down the field from the halfway line with a defender literally on his back, before slicing in a perfect ball for Patrick Mullins to tap in. Villa has either scored or assisted on NYCFC’s first three goals, showing that he is certainly leading by example. El Guaje, the Kid, is on a mission, and he has been the most impressive of any NYCFC player to start.