Halfway through New York City FC's inaugural MLS season, the club has endured the ups and downs that are to be expected from an expansion team.
NYCFC (4-8-5) currently sits four points behind Columbus Crew SC for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, a relatively positive standing considering their early season misfortunes. Here are the main take-aways to be made in evaluating NYCFC's performance at midseason.
Goalkeeper Josh Saunders has faced 79 shots this season, the third-most in the league. Despite the high number of chances, NYCFC ranks 10th out of 20 teams in goals allowed, suggesting that Saunders has done an admirable job in goal but the back line must do a better job protecting him in the season's second half.
NYCFC's recent three-game winning streak coincided with manager Jason Kreis' decision to move Shay Facey from left back to center back. The switch seems permanent now that Facey's loan from New York's sister club Manchester City, originally set to expire July 1, was extended for the remainder of the season.
Better days are coming for NYCFC's back four, with the additions of veteran Athletic Bilbao defender Andoni Iraola and prized Manchester City youth club fullback Angelino, both expected to make their debuts this month.
Super sub Poku
While NYCFC has struggled to generate a consistent offensive attack this season, 23-year-old fan favorite Kwandwo Poku is showing in his reserve role that the club may have a future star on its hands. The Ghanaian midfielder's unique blend of strength and speed has made him the team's most efficient playmaker. His 3.6 key passes per ninety minutes (passes that lead to a shot on target) and 4.9 successful dribbles per ninety minutes (dribbles that maintain possession) both lead NYCFC by a wide margin.
Poku has broken the 60 minutes played mark just once this year, coming against the Cosmos in the U.S. Open Cup -- outside of MLS play -- when he delivered two goals. As soon as Poku is able to erase Kreis' doubts about his defense, NYCFC will be adding an exciting offensive threat to its starting lineup.
Help coming soon for Villa
David Villa's isolation ability has allowed him to lead the team in both shots on goal (30) and goals scored (6). No other player for NYCFC has yet to eclipse eight shots on goal or three goals scored, simply because nobody has proved capable of getting open for them as well as Villa.
With star midfielders Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo joining the team this month, the two dynamic playmakers should produce more chances to score for NYCFC forwards who have experienced difficulty thus far in creating their own shots.
NYCFC kicks off the season's second half Saturday on the road against the Montreal Impact (5-6-3).