New York City FC: Alexandru Mitrita still not a striker
Last season, New York City FC uncovered their worst scenario last season: playing without David Villa.
The Spaniard, the greatest player in franchise history and of the defining individuals of the recent MLS period, began to show his age, slow down on the pitch, and suffer injuries. He played in just 26 league games last season.
NYCFC had to adapt to his absence. They didn’t deal with it very well, largely unable to find the cutting edge in the final third that they would often rely on the World Cup-winner to provide.
And now Villa’s absence has been made permanent. He departed in the offseason and New York were to forced to begin planning for the post-Villa era. That planning has not gone all too smoothly. In fact, a current glimpse at the roster would show you just how short Domenec Torrent is attacking areas, especially at the striker position.
So it is good news, then, that they announced the $8.5 million signing of Romanian attacker Alexandru Mitrita. Mitrita arrives in New York as the third Designated Player, joining Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina. That is an indication of the resource that NYCFC are piling into his services, as does the fee paid, the fourth-highest in MLS history and the highest of any club not named Atlanta United.
But Mirtita, while a young, smart player with a capable goal record — 12 goals in 16 games this season — and burgeoning talent, is not a centre-forward. A better description of him would be a versatile attacker with the ability to play in a number of different positions but best-suited to a wide or number 10 role.
Now, that does not mean that he cannot solve the striker crisis — this offseason, there were rumours of Torrent employing a false-nine, such were the limitations of the options available to him — at New York City FC. As Wayne Rooney proved last year, attackers who have played at a higher level than MLS can cope in the forward-most position, even when they haven’t played it extensively.
But Rooney is a completely different calibre of player to Mitrita. No disrespect to the Romanian, but Rooney is one of the best players in the world over the past decade. Mitrita is not. To expect him to have similar success in changing positions is a little naive.
New York may still spend money to sign a striker this offseason. But they have now filled their three DP slots, so whoever was signed would have to come cheaper than the truly elite level centre-forwards MLS currently boasts. If they are relying on Mitrita, then it is risky. But at this point, given their options, anything they try will be.