By: Marco D'Onofrio
New York City FC find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, with just one more game to be played in their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer. It was a season filled with ups and downs for the expansion club, but one that laid down the groundwork for the franchise for years to come.
There is no team in the entire league that boasts three bigger international stars than David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard. NYCFC had been linked with a plethora of big names, but chose to use their three allocated Designated Player slots on the Spanish, Italian, and English internationals. Prior to 2015, it had been unheard of for a first year team playing in MLS to be able to attract such global stars, but the league's 20th franchise sent a real signal of intent with the acquisitions.
Although signing Frank Lampard only to loan him out to Manchester City for the entire Premier League season was a public relations nightmare, the team's Designated Players did their jobs. Villa was stellar in his first MLS season, scoring 17 goals and 8 assists with one match still to be played. Lampard and Pirlo have made a total of 21 appearances since arriving in the summer, and have undoubtedly helped market the club.
An average of 28, 698 fans walked through the turnstiles at Yankee Stadium on MLS match days to support the expansion team. Only the Seattle Sounders and Orlando City drew better average attendance numbers.
While success on the pitch has been hard to come by, New York were not exactly pushovers this season either.
They took down some of the league's top teams, including the likes of Toronto FC twice, the Vancouver Whitecaps, New England Revolution, and D.C. United.
Despite it only being the club's first season in the league, rumors have already begun to run rampant that head coach Jason Kreis' job is in serious jeopardy. SI's Grant Wahl reported earlier this week that multiple sources close to Manchester City and New York City FC are suggesting that Patrick Vieira could be in line to take over following Sunday's finale against New England.
Whether Kreis is around next year or not though, the club is in a good position moving forward. They have already been able to capture the hearts of New Yorkers, sporting the league's third best average attendance this season and helping to further develop a soccer culture.
Even without a playoff berth in their first year, New York City FC's first campaign has been far from a failure. With the club consistently garnering international headlines, NYCFC will continue to be one of the most talked about teams in the offseason.