NYCFC 2023 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Chris Smith
NYCFC have undergone big change ahead of 2023.
NYCFC have undergone big change ahead of 2023. /

New York City FC enter the 2023 season much changed from years previous.

A number of key players from their 2021 MLS Cup-winning side have departed over the past 12 months, including Taty Castellanos, Alexander Callens, Maxi Moralez, and Sean Johnson. In their place is an exciting group of young talent with plenty to prove.

It's going to be a big ask for Nick Cushing to quickly forge a winning team from so much upheaval, but the Englishman has already proven he can work well under adversity.

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 2022?

  • Regular season: 3rd in Eastern Conference
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Final
  • US Open Cup: Quarter-Finals

NYCFC transfer activity

Transfers in


Former Club


Mitja Ilenic

NK Domzale


Matt Freese

Philadelphia Union

$350k (rising to $750k)

Tony Alfaro

DC United

Free transfer

Gabriel Segal

FC Koln

Free transfer

Malcom Johnston



Braian Cufre

RCD Mallorca


Transfers out


Club Joined



Seattle Sounders

$400k (rising to $550k)

Anton Tinnerholm


Free transfer

Alexander Callens


Free transfer

Sean Johnson

Toronto FC

Free transfer

Maxi Moralez

Racing Club

Free transfer

Gedion Zelalem

FC Den Bosch

Free transfer

Vuk Latinovich

FCI Levadia

Free transfer

Nicolas Acevedo

EC Bahia


Chris Gloster



Santiago Rodriguez

MvD City Torque

End of loan

Nick Cushing: Tactics and style of play

As the 2022 season wore on, Nick Cushing finally got to grips with his side after taking over from Ronny Deila, so much so that he was even confident enough to leave the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 setup behind for a three-at-the-back system.

Once he'd adjusted, NYCFC returned to their vintage possession-heavy, relentlessly pressing selves and it worked, guiding them all the way to third in the East and to the Conference Final.

Given the players that have left, you can likely expect another switch back to their old formation, though the principles should remain the same. The problem will be getting such a new group of players to adjust and gel quickly enough to be a force this season.

NYCFC predicted XI (4-3-3): Freese; Gray, Martins, Chanot, Amundsen; Parks, Morales, Haak; Pereira, Magno, Andrade.

Who is NYCFC's key player?

Talles Magno will become NYCFC's main threat.
Talles Magno will become NYCFC's main threat. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Talles Magno

Bubbling under the surface for so long, it's finally time for Talles Magno to step forward and become the talisman of this team.

The Brazilian youngster - who has courted interest from Liverpool in the past - has hit 14 goals and eight assists in 64 appearances across all competitions since joining NYCFC from Vasco in 2021, helping the club win MLS Cup and Campeones Cup titles.

However, thanks to the form of more established players around him, he's never quite fully established himself as a starter.

This season, that has to change. Magno will be the talisman of this team and if he gets anywhere near to producing the form to match his incredible skill, we could be in for something special.

NYCFC 2023 season prediction

Under previous circumstances, it'd be tempting to say NYCFC won't make the Playoffs with so much roster upheaval potentially leaving them disjointed during the opening months of the season.

However, this time around, nine teams per Conference will get in. Given the sheer talent in the likes of Magno and Gabriel Pereira, it's hard to pick a full nine times in the East that are better than NYCFC. It'll be a comedown from the past couple of years, but the Cityzens will punch their way above the line.

Will NYCFC qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs? Yes