New York City FC

New York City FC 2022 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Chris Smith
NYCFC head into 2022 as defending champions with more silverware in their sights. | Image: Matthew Burt.
NYCFC head into 2022 as defending champions with more silverware in their sights. | Image: Matthew Burt. /

New York City FC head into the 2022 season as defending MLS Cup champions and with further silverware in their sights.

As well as retaining their current title, the Cityzens will no doubt be targetting success in the Concacaf Champions League, Supporters' Shield, and US Open Cup, too. Nothing better than trophies to prove you're now a bonified force, here to stay.

So, here's everything you need to know about NYCFC ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

How did NYCFC perform in 2021?

NYCFC started and ended the regular-season well enough to finish fourth in the East, but a nasty mid-year habit of picking up red cards (six in 10 games between the start of August and late September) saw them give up a lot of points.

Luckily, Ronny Deila's attack clicked into gear again and a run of three wins and two draws - with 12 goals scored - across their final five regular-season matches got them back above the Playoff line and into fourth.

From there, well, we all know what happened. Atlanta United, the New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, and Portland Timbers all fell before them in one way or another as NYCFC lifted MLS Cup for the first time in their history.

Though they now go in search of even more silverware, a big target is now on their heads.

NYCFC transfer activity

Transfers in

  • Thiago Martins (from Yokohama FM, $4.7m)
  • Jonathan Jimenez (from Tar Heels, free transfer)
  • Nico Benalcazar (from Demon Deacons, free transfer)
  • Kingsford Adjei (SuperDraft)

Transfers out

  • Jesus Medina (to CSKA Moscow, free transfer)
  • Tony Rocha (to Orange County, free transfer)
  • Juan Torres (to RGV FC Toros, free transfer)
  • Kingsford Adjei (to Tormenta FC, free transfer)
  • Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (SuperDraft)
  • James Sands (to Rangers, loan)
  • Gudmundur Thorarinsson (released)

Ronny Deila: Tactics and style of play

Deila experimented with three at the back last season, but 4-2-3-1 is his go-to setup. The Norwegian coach likes his full-backs to drive forward, his center-backs to play out, and his wingers to tuck inside.

With all that forward motion, it's important NYCFC's double-pivot protects the center-backs. Maxi Moralez roams behind 2021 Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos, picking the ball up in pockets of space where he can slice open the opposition defense.

NYCFC score highly in a huge number of metrics and can hurt you in so many different ways.

NYCFC predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Johnson; Gray, Thiago, Callens, Amundsen; Morales, Parks; Rodriguez, Moralez, Magno; Castellanos.

Taty Castellanos

A late run of six goals in his final four regular-season games saw Taty Castellanos catch up with his xG and win the MLS Golden Boot. Now, he looks every inch the player his talent always promised.

He can dribble, he can pass, his hold-up play is great, and he's a bulldozer in the air. Castellanos is also extremely intelligent with and without the ball - he'll draw you out as NYCFC come forward, or keep you pinned when trying to play out.

NYCFC have somehow managed to keep Castellanos out of European and South American clutches so far and the longer that remains the case, the more chance they have of success.

Alexander Callens

If there was one weakness in NYCFC's team last year, it was in the back - specifically going one-on-one with ball carriers. While their 38 percent tackle success rate against dribblers was by no means the worst in the league, it was pretty poor for a side of NYCFC's caliber.

Thiago Martins has come in as a DP center-back, but Alexander Callens remains the anchor of Deila's defense. The Peruvian center-back had a team-high 56 percent success rate when tackling dribblers last season, is powerful in the air, and solid on the ball.

He also played out the defining moments of NYCFC's greatest success, of course, so he's a hero among supporters regardless from here.

Talles Magno

With NYCFC parting ways with Jesus Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi this off-season, the way is now clear for Talles Magno to become a regular starter.

The Brazilian winger has already shown promise as a substitute and has been excellent during NYCFC's early Concacaf Champions League exploits. He's fast, incredibly skillful, and has a real eye for goal. At just 19, he has time on his side, too. But already, the teenager has shown all the ingredients to make a future world-class winger.

We're expecting a real breakout season for Talles Magno in 2022.

NYCFC 2022 season prediction

NYCFC are the best hope for MLS in this year's Champions League, so there's that.

But speaking strictly in MLS and domestic terms, they've strengthened their backline and, so far, kept hold of everything that made them great in 2021. Castellanos is getting better, Talles Magno looks ready to burst onto the scene for real, and Maxi Moralez still shows no signs of slowing down with age.

If they keep this group together, it's hard to see anyone outpacing them over 34 games.

Prediction: 1st in the Eastern Conference & Supporters' Shield