NYCFC's 2021 MLS Cup-winning team: Where are they now?

Chris Smith
NYCFC's MLS Cup-winning team has been quickly broken up.
NYCFC's MLS Cup-winning team has been quickly broken up. / Andy Mead/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Barely a year has passed by since New York City FC's historic MLS Cup triumph over the Portland Timbers, but already so much has changed at the club.

One trip around the sun is a long time in the soccer landscape and looking back at NYCFC's win at Providence Park, where the club sealed its first-ever piece of major silverware, the team already looks almost unrecognizable.

Some players have stepped up to Europe to develop their careers and test themselves against the best, while others have made moves within MLS. Even current head coach Nick Cushing was only an assistant in December 2021.

With that in mind, let's take a look at NYCFC's 2021 MLS Cup-winning team to see what happened next:

What happened to NYCFC's MLS Cup-winning team?

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Alexander Callens, Sean Johnson
The futures of Callens and Johnson remain uncertain / Abbie Parr-USA TODAY Sports

GK: Sean Johnson - Johnson remained at NYCFC through the 2022 MLS season and was so impressive that he earned a spot on the USMNT's roster for the World Cup. However, the veteran goalkeeper is now out of contract, with the club actively exploring their options.

RB: Tayvon Gray - Gray is still with the club and has established himself as one of the most promising full-backs in MLS. The 20-year-old made 34 appearances across all competitions last season, battling for his spot alongside stalwart Anton Tinnerholm who, incidentally, has returned to Malmo in his native Sweden.

CB: Maxime Chanot - Chanot remains in New York, with the Luxembourg international making 32 appearances across all competitions last season, helping NYCFC win the Campeones Cup.

CB: Alexander Callens - Callens has played a monumental role in all of NYCFC's successes so far. However, the Peru international is now out of contract and, just like at goalkeeper, NYCFC are exploring their options. It seems Callens is the latest big name on his way out.

LB: Gudmundur Thórarinsson - Thorarinsson was a very solid defender during his time with NYCFC but, shortly after the 2021 season wrapped up, he returned to Europe with Danish side Aalborg. The Icelandic left-back now finds himself in Greece with OFI.

2. Midfielders

Maxi Moralez
Moralez is arguably NYCFC's greatest-ever player / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

CM: James Sands - NYCFC's first-ever homegrown, James Sands' form in 2021 earned him a loan move to Scottish giants Rangers in January. The seven-time United States international remains at Ibrox, where he's made 37 appearances across all competitions so far, with the 'Gers holding the option to make his transfer permanent.

CM: Alfredo Morales - The only NYCFC player to miss a penalty in the 2021 MLS Cup shootout, Morales remains at the club. The German-born US international made 31 appearances across all competitions last season, scoring once and providing two assists - though his defensive qualities were much more important.

CAM: Maxi Moralez - No departure from this great NYCFC side will be felt more than Maxi Moralez. The one-time Argentina international is quite simply a legend having made 194 appearances for the club since joining in 2017, scoring 36 goals and providing 60 assists, while helping NYCFC win two trophies. Arguably the greatest player the Cityzens have ever seen, Moralez has returned to his homeland with Racing Club, where his professional career began.

3. Forwards

Taty Castellanos
Castellanos is adjusting well to life in Spain / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

RW: Jesus Medina - Medina saved his very best form at NYCFC for his final season, hitting nine goals and two assists in 38 appearances across all competitions in 2021. However, NYCFC declined his contract option and the 25-year-old Paraguayan is now performing well in Russia with CSKA Moscow.

ST: Taty Castellanos - Castellanos was the undoubted star of this team, scoring three Playoffs goals (including one in the final) having already sealed the MLS Golden Boot during the regular season. The Argentine stayed for a short time in 2022 and continued to find the net with regularity, before getting a loan move to La Liga side Girona, where he's managed five goals in 17 appearances so far. Like Sands, Castellanos' loan includes a permanent option.

LW: Santiago Rodriguez - Rodriguez's loan from Montevideo City Torque continued through 2022, with the Uruguayan returning a solid seven goals and 16 assists in 43 appearances across all competitions. However, as of writing, NYCFC have not made a move to make his stay permanent and his future remains unclear.

4. Substitutes

Talles Magno
Magno could be the next star to leave NYCFC / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

GK: Luis Barraza - Barraza remains at NYCFC, once again playing as backup to Sean Johnson in 2022.

DF: Malte Amundsen - Amundsen continues to do a solid job as a rotational full-back for NYCFC and made 35 appearances during the 2022 campaign.

MF: Tony Rocha - Rocha brought his three-year stay with NYCFC to an end following the 2021 season as he sought more playing time. The midfielder is now with USL side Orange County SC.

MF: Gedion Zelalem - Zelalem never fulfilled his potential at NYCFC. The former Arsenal midfielder is now a free agent.

MF: Nicolas Acevedo - In a rather surprising turn of events Acevedo was recently allowed to join Brazilian club Bahia on loan for 2023.

FW: Thiago Andrade - Andrade continued to develop mainly as a substitute in 2022. Given the number of departures and his huge talent, he's likely to feature more heavily next season.

FW: Heber - The most recent departure, Heber recently joined the Seattle Sounders despite turning in a solid 2022 season for NYCFC, scoring 11 goals across all competitions.

FW: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi - Supremely talented but painfully injury-prone, Tajouri-Shradi was picked up by Charlotte FC in the 2022 Expansion Draft before being immediately traded to LAFC. The Libya international came up with some remarkable moments but couldn't stay fit and is now with the New England Revolution, though he's yet to play for the club.

FW: Talles Magno - A talent on the radar of a number of European clubs, Magno enjoyed a prominent role last season, hitting 11 goals and eight assists in 45 appearances. At just 20 years old, it won't be long until the Brazilian follows in the footsteps of the likes of Castellanos and Sands.

5. Head coach: Ronny Deila

Ronny Deila
Deila delivered NYCFC's first-ever major trophy / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ronny Deila will always be remembered as the head coach who delivered NYCFC's first major trophy and will be seen as a legend for years to come.

The Norwegian tactician departed the club early in the 2022 season, however, joining Belgian giants Standard Liege.

Deila so far holds a 9W-8L-2D record with his new club.

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