NYCFC has flexible future after cutting ties with Lampard

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP
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When New York City FC entered Major League Soccer in 2015 the club’s vision was quite clear.

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The MLS expansion side — an affiliate of Premier League giant Manchester City — made immediate splashes prior to its inaugural season, acquiring the likes of David Villa and U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Mix Diskerud before going on to sign ex-Chelsea star Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo later that summer.

Entering its second season, the team made another game-changing move by sacking manager Jason Kreis and replacing him with French legend Patrick Vieira, who had never managed a professional squad.

Fast forward ahead to now and the club has undoubtedly made strides in just over two full seasons in MLS, but the team’s future holds a lot more questions than answers following its first playoff run in 2016.

NYCFC made an abrupt exit in the postseason following a 7-0 aggregate defeat against Toronto FC, one that surely brings up defensive concerns heading into the new season.

On Monday, NYCFC announced that Lampard won’t be returning to the regular season Eastern Conference runners’ up in 2017. While the club’s decision certainly isn’t outrageous given Lampard’s age (38), the void the midfielder leaves is massive considering he finished second on NYCFC in goals this past season (12).

With Pirlo’s contract also set to expire at the end of 2016, NYCFC will likely be in a position where they have to complete a makeover in the center of the midfield. In the even that the Italian does depart the team before 2017, it gives NYCFC two Designated Player spots to play with during the offseason.

Rumors continue to spout up in regards to which player NYCFC will look to attract next, with Samir Nasri, Keisuke Honda and Andres Iniesta among the names being linked with the Yankee Stadium side. While it’s uncertain as to how valid those links are, the team has already shown its capability in bringing in star talent and it seems probable that City Football Group and Claudio Reyna will be able to accomplish that feat once more in the future.

The club has also opened up the opportunity to continue to build up its base of youth talent, which currently includes first-round draft picks Jack Harrison and Khiry Shelton, while also providing sources of experience with Villa and other international options.

As an expansion side, NYCFC was immediately at a disadvantage due to the fact that it didn’t have a youth academy when it entered MLS. However, the team has already made strides in that department, adding Under-14 and U-16 sides, which will spark the growth of the academy over the next few years.

In the mean time, NYCFC benefits from having a full plethora of draft picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft as well as a full network of scouts around the globe. The club has already experimented with foreign signings such as Ronald Matarrita and Maxine Chanot, and NYCFC will surely continue to look that route as they hope to deepen their squad with talent.