It’s almost impossible for NYCFC to go under the radar. It’s just the nature of the club. Big city, big stars, big expectations and, ultimately, big eyeballs on the team week in and week out.
Yet, somehow, NYCFC has somehow, someway quietly kickstarted the season in historic fashion, and the hot start has at least one coach believing Patrick Viera’s side is the best MLS has to offer at this point in time.
“It seems like NYCFC have improved and they’re getting better,” said Real Salt Lake boss Mike Petke just moments after seeing his side become the latest NYCFC victim in a 4-0 beatdown that was never even that close. “I thought Toronto was a really good team. NYCFC right now, I think, is the best team in the league. For sure.”
When looking at the table, it’s hard to argue Petke’s point. NYCFC has won five of their first six games while drawing the other. They’ve done so without David Villa and Alexander Ring for stretches. They’ve beaten teams in a variety ways, from shootouts to defensive struggles.
On Tuesday, it was much more of the former. NYCFC clobbered RSL from the start, taking advantage of a variety of mistakes to score four goals. It was a comprehensive win, a lopsided one and, ultimately, one that is now expected.
NYCFC’s strength has been in its depth. For the first three years of the team’s existence, NYCFC has gone only as far as Villa has carried them. This year, he hasn’t had to carry them very far.
That’s because there have been plenty of others to carry help out. Maxi Moralez continues to shine in the midfield. Yangel Herrera, Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm and Ben Sweat have looked like a top defensive unit. Ismael Tajouri and Jo Inge Berget have looked solid in Villa’s absence while new signing Jesus Medina has fit seamlessly into it all. NYCFC isn’t a one man squad and, in many ways, that makes them much more dangerous.
“What would make my job really difficult for the next game is for me to choose the starting eleven,”said Patrick Vieira. “I will have to be honest with the players as usual. It will be a tough decision I will have to make, but i will always think about the team before thinking about individuals. When you look at the way Ismael, Jesus and even Jo work, David missed a few games, but he came on and played really hard and that’s what I expect from the players. Their job is to make it difficult to choose the starting eleven. I have a decision to make and I will make it, but always putting the team first.”
“One thing that defines our group is that everybody battles for each other, no matter who it is,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson added. “There are certain plays where the ball turns over and everyone just swarms the opposition. There was a chance late on (against RSL) where the ball got turned over and the ball was played back to the back post and we make an important play to keep a clean sheet. Everyone has each other’s back. It’s a good feeling. It’s a cohesive bunch that’s really hungry, really, really hungry.
While Toronto FC continues to be the toast of the East and while the rival New York Red Bulls earned headlines for their own CONCACAF Champions League run, NYCFC continues to cruise. Despite flashy signings league-wide, NYCFC has relied on depth and experience to batter their way atop the East.
A big test awaits on Sunday, though. On short rest, NYCFC is tasked with going to Atlanta and taking on one of the league’s fiercest attacks. It’s a match that is important for both sides as the two teams look to solidify their spot among the East’s elite.
“I think we haven’t reached our potential yet,” said Berget. “We’re a new squad with many new players and we have to know each other better. We’ve gotten off to a very good start, so that’s good for the confidence.
“We’re off to a very good start, and hopefully we’ll keep going to show that we are the best team this season. That’s what we’re going for. We’re going for trophies, and, to win trophies, you have to be the best team.”