Season wrap-up: The positives, negatives, and looking ahead as NYCFC’s season concludes

Credit: @aleizphotos IG | Mounsef Bakrar and Julian Fernandez

The 2023 NYCFC season came to a close against the Chicago Fire. The Boys in Blue arrived with a chance to make the playoffs but depended on other results to make the cut. Unfortunately, it was not enough despite winning the game. The team showed glimpses of what the team can look like next season. Talles Magno, Bakrar, and Julian Fernandez provided a new face to the NYCFC attack. The formula could have worked if they had enough time to build up chemistry, but the choices were made far too late, and the impact that was needed fell short. 

The positives 

Believe it or not, the season had good moments. Bakrar’s arrival was perhaps one that many of us hoped would have come sooner. The impact that he made was instant and finally solved the positional issues to some extent. Scoring in consecutive games and giving the team a breath of fresh air after some unsuccessful attempts to find alternatives within the squad. The same could be said about the magician Maxi Moralez, his triumphant return changed things immediately in the buildup department. It was like he never left, understanding movements and providing guidance would have changed the team’s script in the final stages of the season. Had it not been for the injury, who knows what could have happened?

Credit: @aleizphotos IG | Mounsef Bakrar and Julian Fernandez

Andres Perea and Mitja Ilenic also gave the team an extra push. While I could be missing some players, just look at the team’s form in the last games of the season, yes that includes Matt Freeze. Let’s hope we see more of those immediate impact players in 2024. In terms of games, I stay with both Games against Toronto FC. (Leagues Cup and Regular season at RBA). Perhaps two games where we saw the team’s true potential. 

The negatives 

I’ll try not to be too harsh in this part, but I do feel like some of the issues that we faced this season could have been avoided. The first and most critical one is the constant attempts to turn Talles Magno into a striker. I’ve talked about this in my previous articles, but the angle that I take here comes after Bakrar’s arrival. If you see that he can feed off a player like Magno, why not build that partnership immediately? By the time they attempted to have them on the field together, it was too late.

Credit: @aleizphotos IG | Talles Magno against Chicago fire

Another negative aspect was the late substitutions during the season. The team had countless moments where the changes came too late, had those substitutions been made with enough time, the results and the outcome of the season would have changed dramatically. This brings me to the last part, which is to give more minutes to upcoming talent. I understand that experience does play a part in this sport, but I feel like some players could have gained the necessary experience to help the team at some point.

Gabe Segal, Nico Benalcazar, Justin Haak, and Andres Jasson barely had a shot to find consistency, and the ones who did were completely erased despite earning a spot on the team. The constant improvisations and experiments had a negative impact on the objectives for the season. Finishing in the lower part of the Eastern Conference after consecutive positive seasons should be a way to hit rock bottom. This squad had enough talent to compete. Hopefully, they evaluate the mistakes and return stronger in 2024.

Looking Ahead 

The MLS will have the spotlight in 2024, and NYCFC has to take full advantage of it. The team can continue being criticized for playing in baseball stadiums. However, the works on the soccer-specific stadium should continue to be highlighted. The project continues to catch the public eye, so the team has to take advantage of that and aim for better results on the field. Like I said before, the team has talent, and the offseason should be looking to find ways to get the best out of players like Julian Fernandez, Talles Magno, and Bakrar. These three have the potential to take NYCFC to new heights. If the team is able to unlock their potential and keep some pieces from leaving, the team can fight for the playoffs once again.

Credit @aleizphotos IG | NYCFC ended the season with a win

In general terms, 2024 will be what I like to call the “Messi season,” as well as the return of Copa America to the United States. Two high-profile events for those who enjoy the game. While I don’t know what life may bring, I want to return for a 4th season and be able to cover Copa America in the process. I want to thank NYCFC and the NYCFC media for all of their support this season. It may not have concluded how most of us wanted to, but I was able to meet amazing people in the process. 

A huge thank you to Empire Sports Media for the opportunity to join the team and for taking me to some high-profile events. To the amazing photographers who provided that extra element to my work. May 2024 be a bigger and better year, see you all soon. Thanks again for the support.

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