New York City FC, which plays its 2017 home opener against D.C. United on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, boasts a younger squad this year that looks to improve upon its second-place finish to the regular season in 2016.
Frank Lampard, who retired after the playoff exit (7-0 aggregate loss vs. Toronto FC in the conference semifinals), was crucial for City. Along with captain David Villa and veteran Andrea Pirlo, he garnered international attention to the team that influenced younger athletes to give the MLS a shot. NYCFC has a total of 12 players who have joined from overseas, six who are currently in their first season.
In their 1-0 loss against Orlando City in the season opener, NYCFC debuted five new players in the starting 11. Although held scoreless, there were glimpses of good play that gave players hope for the rest of the season. As the sixth youngest squad in the MLS, with an average age just under 26, City has a useful advantage they can use to succeed this campaign against opponents.
Villa believes the new guys will fill the roles necessary in order to push the team forward.
“The most important thing is the guys that come in are great guys,” Villa said at Thursday’s team Media Day at the Grand Hyatt in midtown. “We have good chemistry and atmosphere in the locker room.”
Newcomer and midfielder, Alexander Ring, is part of the wave of young talent that will shake up the lineup for coach Patrick Vieira’s team. NYCFC announced their signing of Ring back in February, and he already has his mind set on the big prize.
“I think we want to win some trophies,” the 25-year-old Ring said. “That’s why everybody plays football. Not for second place, but to win and I think that’s our goal.”
Along with Ring’s presence in the midfield, Vieira can also look to returning youngster Jack Harrison, 20, to contribute to the team’s goals this season. After missing the start of 2016 due to injury, Harrison feels healthy and brings lessons from last season that can improve his game vastly.
“I learned a lot from last season,” Harrison said. “The biggest thing for me was decision making. I want to be more unpredictable.”