NEW YORK — The No. 9 New York City FC wants and needs is expected to arrive in the Big Apple fairly soon.
The club thinks so, at least.
NYCFC is closing in on adding a striker to its roster, which currently has no natural center forward. The need for a true No. 9 has been glaring ever since former captain David Villa departed in the offseason, and the first two games of the 2019 campaign have done nothing to dispel that popular notion.
Help seems to be on the way, though.
“He’s a good player. That’s all I could say,” NYCFC director of football operations Claudio Reyna told SBI. “We’re excited and we have to be a little bit patient and there was always a lot of targets and finding the right one but we feel good. We feel, first of all, with the group we have now, until the player comes in, that we can get results.
“But he’s only going to add more depth and competition into the team and obviously someone who can score goals.”
Who that player is remains an unknown, but it seems likely that he will come from abroad. NYCFC can still add players from within MLS via trades (like the one the club tried to work out with the LA Galaxy for Ola Kamara before he opted to go to China) but a transaction that requires some patience, as Reyna put it, appears to indicate a more complicated deal like a transfer or a loan.
In any case, NYCFC remains confident that a move will be completed in the near future, even after seeing other attempts to land different strikers fall through during this transfer window.
“I know how difficult it is to sign a player,” NYCFC head coach Dominic Torrent told SBI. “In Europe, it’s easy. You have money, you can sign someone. Here, it’s not like that. You have to look at the DPs you have, the salary cap, foreign players. Lots of things, so it’s not easy.
“We have been close to finalizing several transactions but at the last moment the club has communicated to me that the player has had a better offer in Europe or another because he didn’t fit in the salary cap. Thousands and thousands of rules, but I’m very happy with everyone who is working on this and we’re waiting and hoping that we can add another player.”
Another likelihood is that the center forward is not up there in age. NYCFC has gone in a significantly younger direction with its roster this season, in large part because, like MLS, the club sees the benefit of selling players at a later date for a profit.
It is for that reason that the targeted player is likely to be on the right side of 30, and why signing big-name veterans like Villa or Frank Lampard or Andrea Pirlo seems to be a thing of the past now for NYCFC.
“I know in the recent years the amount of scouts and clubs that have come through Yankee Stadium to watch players on our team has certainly increased,” said Reyna. “(Selling players) is the way forward. Combine that now with the academy players that are blossoming throughout the league and getting into squads and playing now, it’s really nice how it’s all coming together.
“…That’s a big part of our strategy and we can only talk about NYCFC. If you look through our squad, we have a lot of players with value at a good age that could potentially go on to Europe or Mexico, who knows, but right now they are all happy to be here in New York and play for us. But that’s certainly part of the strategy.”
NYCFC is continuing to work on completing the deal for the new striker, and the club knows the sooner it can get something done the better. New York City FC has scored just twice in its first two matches of the season, with both goals coming from central midfielders, and has been forced to settle for a pair of draws against conference foes as a result. The latest fixture, a goal-less affair at home with D.C. United, only further emphasized the point that help is needed up top.
Good thing for NYCFC then that a move seems to be on the horizon.
“The 9 will come in and add goals to us,” said Reyna. “That’s something that we’re hopeful to sign before not too long. We feel it’s not too far away.”