Contrasting Starts To 2024 For New York’s MLS Teams

March 4, 2024
2 mins read
Emil Forsberg NYRB

By James Nalton.

Two full matchdays into the new Major League Soccer season, it is safe to say there are contrasting levels of optimism around the two teams with New York in their names.

Starting with the positive, New York Red Bulls have shown promising signs under new head coach Sandro Schwarz.

The first half of the opening game of the season against Nashville SC was encouraging, and a 0-0 draw on the road against a Tennessee team that can be pretty stubborn wasn’t a bad opening result.

It wasn’t necessarily good either, but it is safe to say the subsequent game further south in Houston, Texas, took things up a notch and the 2-1 win provided plenty to celebrate and plenty of promise.

There is still room for improvement but the signs suggest there is the potential within the group to do so.

Schwarz has the team set up in what feels like a slightly more enterprising version of Red Bull football than that seen under Gerhard Struber.

In Emil Forsberg, the New Jersey arm of the Red Bull multi-club system has finally been handed a star via their owners’ global connections.

Forsberg has shown he’s not just a hard worker and an outstanding system player but is also a talented player. The Houston game was the second in a row in which he has hit the bar from a free kick and he has made some clever moves in the middle of the park.

Perhaps just as encouraging as the performances of Forsberg have been those of his fellow Swede, Noah Eile.

The 21-year-old defender looks a class act at times in the center of defence, and with further adaptation to the league and development as a young footballer, he could become one of the standout players in MLS in his position.

The passing is cool, accurate, and forward-thinking, and at 6ft 5in, he has the frame of a player who should be able to perform the defensive duties as well, especially as he gains more experience at senior level.

It is early days this season for the team formerly known as MetroStars (TTFKAM) but there are numerous reasons to be upbeat about the Red Bulls heading into their home opener against FC Dallas next week.

City Stifled

Heading into their own home opener, against Portland Timbers, the situation for New York City FC is far from positive.

Nick Cushing’s side have continued to lack ideas in the final third despite often seeing more of the ball than their opponents.

There is an apparent inability to turn possession into chances that has carried over from last season into this.

NYCFC has only managed three shots on target in two games so far this season, and has the lowest xG in MLS with 1.0 from two games.

This has led to two road defeats to kick off the season — 1-0 at Charlotte and 2-0 at St. Louis City.

For much of their existence, New York City have been confident going into home games whether at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.

This offers a shred of optimism that the third game of the season might be a different story to the first two on the road, but there is also a worry among fans that the general performance of the team has not improved on last season.

Much more will be learned about both of these teams when they play their first home games of the season in MLS Matchday 4.

James Nalton

Freelance world soccer writer for Forbes, Guardian US, World Soccer magazine, FotMob, the BBC, and the Morning Star newspaper.

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