It is tempting to believe that New York City FC’s success — they are currently third in MLS with 1.96 points per game — is down to the bottomless pockets of City Football Group, the club’s owners. This is not entirely accurate.
For evidence, look no further than Robinho. A player of unspeakable talent, Robinho was not known for his work rate or tactical discipline. He was a star in the classic sense; a player that saw spectacle as a responsibility and teamwork as a burden.
Now City puts out documentaries where their coach, among the best in the world, agitates for his players — each as or more talented than Robinho — to work harder and do more for the team.
In short, City have had money for a while now, but recently they have begun using it far more effectively. This section from a recent ESPN article on NYC FC is telling: “A few weeks ago, NYCFC launched a new training ground with a tour for media members that stopped in front of one door that remained closed, the room housing the database of players and scouting files, that CFG staff referred to, only half tongue-in-cheek, as "the Crown Jewels". It's where NYCFC's head of player recruitment, David Lee, works in conjunction with his peers across the City Football Group to identify talent, share insights and support his coaching team.”
NYC FC could buy David Villa until they ran out of Designated Player slots, but instead, they use other resources to save money on transfer fees while still finding a guy that fit their needs.
And it works: Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring, Jesus Medina. These are players who either fit a role NYC needs filled — Moralez would be an MVP candidate as a ball-moving midfielder if Josef Martinez was not already the first, second, and third choice for that award — or fit a role pretty well but have buckets of potential to improve both on-field and in transfer value (Medina can ball, y’all).
Maxi Moralez, USA Today
So when NYC comes into Talen Energy Stadium this weekend, they bring the financial backing of the rulers of Abu Dhabi, but they also bring a team that is increasingly built to play a specific style that allows them to describe roles in minute detail and find players that fit those roles using an increasingly advanced and scalable scouting system.
That’s the big picture view. This season, however, the main question for NYC and new head coach Dome Torrent, Pep Guardiola’s former right-hand man, is whether they can begin to win consistently on the road. Of the Big Three teams atop the Eastern Conference standings, NYC is the only one without a winning record on the road.
With David Villa healthy again, can the Sky Blues grab points in Talen Energy Stadium? Or will the Union establish their first undefeated streak since the end of May? Find out on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST when Philly hosts one of the best in the east.