Note: The numbers below represent the cumulative ratings as determined by Hudson River Blue readers for each player over the first 17 MLS league games this season.
Talles Magno – 5.2
12 starts, 4 substitute appearances
There has been a TON of pressure on Talles Magno this season. Given his price tag, the talent he clearly has, and the departure of those around him, all eyes were turned to the 20-year-old to lead this team’s attack this season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t stepped up in the way fans, coaches, and the front office had probably hoped.
But why? Maybe the pressure got to him? Maybe shoehorning him into the No 9 hurt his confidence? Or maybe he just lacks the necessary pieces around him to be effective? Regardless, three goals and one assist in 17 matches this season isn’t good enough production, and
these fans are rightfully frustrated with his lack of output, hence the lowly 5.2 rating.
Gabriel Segal – 5.6
4 starts, 2 substitute appearances
In my humble opinion, I think a 5.6 is pretty harsh for a player who, in all honesty, was not expected to feature whatsoever by most fans this season. I think Gabe has done an admirable job for a club still hunting for a striker.
He grinds, he hustles, he presses. He made six appearances, and he scored one pretty important goal for us against Orlando. I guarantee that’s more than you expected from Gabe this season, who’s making a league minimum salary, and was likely pegged as an MLS NEXT
Pro player by most.
But if the voting was solely based on production, with no regard for expectation, then I can understand the low score.
Santiago Rodríguez – 6.1
14 starts, 2 substitute appearances
Santiago Rodríguez went from loanee to Designated Player in 2023, which came with a higher salary, higher expectations, and a lower kit number: No 10. But, his efforts to succeed the departed Maxi Moralez haven’t been as successful as the talented Uruguayan would have hoped.
Four goals and one assist aren’t dreadful numbers, but they’re not quite good enough to carry a team that’s been as stagnant in attack as NYCFC have been. But, while perhaps not as consistent as fans have come to demand, he still possesses the ability to take over a match at a
moment’s notice — he’s that good. Whether it’s from CAM, the False 9, or the wings, New York City fans will be hoping for more of those
games from Santi soon.
Gabriel Pereira – 6.5
14 starts, 2 substitute appearances
To give you an idea of what we’re working with this season, Gabriel Pereira is NYCFC’s highest-ranked player at the halfway mark with an average rating of only 6.5. Oof.
In fairness, I’d argue that’s a pretty low score for the young Brazilian, who’s been by far the team’s most impactful attacker in 2023. That’s not just evident by his seven goal involvements (four goals, three assists), but also by how he’s taken those goals and provided those assists – they’ve been top-class. His left foot remains among the most dangerous in the entire league, and his ability to turn a game on its head in an instant has the opposition on notice for the rest of this season.
Matías Pellegrini – 4.8
9 starts, 3 substitute appearances
Last season, I think the arrival of Matías Pellegrini felt like it was all upside. NYCFC picked up the former Inter Miami DP after the window had technically closed, and threw him into an attacking contingent that included Talles Magno, Thiago, Pereira, Maxi, Santi, and Héber. If anything, the problem with Matí was that there wasn’t room for him.
Flash forward to this year, and the problem feels quite the opposite: We lack attacking threat, he’s been getting minutes, and he hasn’t been producing.
Richy Ledezma – 5.7
8 starts, 3 substitute appearances
When NYCFC signed Richy Ledezma on loan from PSV Eindhoven at the start of this season, I was pretty hyped about using him as a No 10, or an attacking No 8 in a double pivot, or even as a winger if needed. I sure didn’t expect to see NYCFC rolling him out as a center forward.
But hey, here we are.
While the kid is clearly talented, I’m still a little unsure where his best position is in this side. He feels most effective at CAM, but then what do we do with Santi? Richy’s three assists and overall positive play are super promising, but I still think there’s another level to Richy’s game that we’re not seeing yet. I just hope we get to see it in NYCFC colors before his loan expires.
Andres Jasson – 4.8
3 starts, 7 substitute appearances
While clearly a talented player on the ball, Andres Jasson’s role on this team remains somewhat of a mystery to me. He’s probably best suited as a winger, but really isn’t much of a goal threat.
Not only has he not yet scored this season, he’s actually goalless in his 52 appearances for the club throughout his career. While I really like the guy, and I’m rooting for him with all my might, that’s just not going to cut it. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to judge a player like Andres based solely on output, it’s easy to understand the frustrations of the fans.
Keaton Parks – 5.8
17 starts, 0 substitute appearances
Keaton Press has been on the receiving end of some brutally low scores from HRB readers this season, which I actually find really interesting. Most fans and pundits I’ve seen really rate the American No 8, praising his press resistance, creative ability, and knack for breaking lines through even the tightest of spaces. But, there’s certainly a strong contingent of NYCFC supporters on Twitter and in HRB’s reader polls that are frustrated with the midfielder, often claiming he loses the ball too much and lacks defensive impact.
While I certainly align myself more closely with the “Keaton Parks is very good at soccer” side of that argument, I can understand why some would be frustrated with Keaton’s constancy — sometimes he just doesn’t seem to have it out there.
James Sands – 6.4
16 starts, 0 substitute appearances
James Sands might be my player of the season so far, and I can’t decide if that’s a hot take or not.
He’s Mr. Consistency. There have been so few games this year, even in our worst losses, in which I can point the finger at Jimmy and think, “he really should’ve played better tonight.” He’s as calm in possession as I remember from his pre-Rangers days, but I feel like he’s more physical since returning from Scotland, and has improved his passing range significantly. Sometimes he’s so reliable that I forget he’s out there. Rather than ignore the No 6 when watching an end-to-end match at Yankee Stadium, here’s a friendly reminder to appreciate his quality and level of play.
Alfredo Morales – 5.5
4 starts, 8 substitute appearances
It’s been an odd season for Alfredo Morales. Not too long ago, he was a mainstay in NYCFC’s possession-focused midfield, leading us to an MLS Cup in 2021 and an Eastern Conference Final in back-to-back seasons.
But this year was different for the American, who struggled to get minutes early in the season with the return of James Sands. But, with Sands dropping into the back line of late, Alfredo has had something of a resurgence, featuring in New York City’s last three matches, and
providing a stunning assist against FC Cincinnati. Still, I worry about Morales’s involvement in this team if Sands is moved back into the midfield.
Justin Haak – 5.9
3 starts, 1 substitute appearance
A frustrating search for First Team minutes came to an end for Justin Haak through a major tactical shift from head coach Nick Cushing, which saw the homegrown thrust into the back-three as New York City shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3.
It’s only been two games, but Justin went the full 90 in both matches since the shift and looked pretty solid in each. In my mind, heists somewhere between a ball-playing center-back and a combative midfielder. But, with an extended run of games in the back line, maybe that’s where he’ll end up honing his skills and getting more minutes in the team.
Maxime Chanot – 6.4
14 starts, 0 substitute appearances
It wasn’t too long ago I remember hearing stories about Maxime Chanot getting his coaching licenses and potentially moving into that stage of his career. Flash forward a year or so and he’s the only healthy, natural center back Cushing trusts on this roster — life comes at you
Bar a few sketchy moments on Route 1 balls over the top, he’s been a reliable player for NYCFC this season. The 33-year-old is probably more important than ever in this squad given how thin they are in the back, and the combination of ability, leadership, and experience
he can offer. That sentiment is pretty well reflected in this HRB rating given that a 6.4 is the second-highest on the squad.
Thiago Martins – 6.1
14 starts, 0 substitute appearances
This is another one where expectation should probably factor into this score as much as the actual performances. Given the departure of Alex Callens, and given that his DP salary likely played a significant role in that departure, it’s hard to expect anything less than Callens-
level production from the Thiago Martins.
While that hasn’t quite been the case, we’ve seen stretches (especially early in the season) in which Thiago Martins looked impressive. But he is error-prone at times, and I understand why a large portion of the fan base expresses frustration with his play. With him sidelined through August, I’m sure all fans would take Thiago Martins-level production from any replacement in a heartbeat.
Tony Alfaro – 5.2
2 starts, 2 substitute appearances
It’s hard for Tony Alfaro to break into the lineup when NYCFC are playing with a back-four. Cushing simply isn’t going to pick him over the likes of Thiago Martins and Maxime Chanot. But with the injury to Thiago Martins, and with the switch to the back-three, it seems like there’s more opportunity for Alfaro these days. We’ll see if Cushing continues to opt to fill out the defense with midfielders Haak and Sands over.
Mitja Ilenič – 6.3
8 starts, 4 substitute appearances
Mitja Ilenič has been a fan favorite for his attacking play, his confidence, and his overall boyish charm for a kid who really just looks excited to be there. He felt like he was on the cusp of really locking down the starting spot over Tayvon Gray (another fan favorite), but an injury setback saw him miss a few matches, before ultimately getting relegated back to bench duties while he looked to gain fitness for himself and confidence from his manager.
But the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen have been really exciting. And, as a right wingback in this back-three system, I think he could be a perfect option for Nick Cushing in the second half of the season.
Tayvon Gray – 4.5
8 starts, 3 substitute appearances
Tayvon Gray has had an odd season to date. He’s still super-capable defensively, but I was hoping for a bit more growth in his attacking game than what we’ve seen from him thus far. He was the starting right back for most of the season, fending off his even younger
counterpart in Ilenič for playing time, whose style is nearly the antithesis of Tayvon’s.
Plus, he’s coming off the heels of an MLS investigation into inappropriate language used on the field in the FC Cincinnati game, which was murky and lacking in detail. What Tayvon said, what the league found, and how Tayvon will be used in a purely sporting sense all remain super unclear at this stage. Who knows how this season will pan out for Tayvon?
Stephen Turnbull – 5.2
3 starts, 2 substitute appearances
Another name I’m sure y’all weren’t expecting to see in the First Team this season for NYCFC is Stephen Turnbull. But, in his five starts for the first team so far, he’s looked alright! He hasn’t exactly lit the world ablaze with his play, especially considering he’s only featured during times of great struggle for NYCFC. But again, when comparing actual performance to expectation, he’s done well.
Braian Cufré – 5.9
13 starts, 1 substitute appearance
This is another player I’m convinced has another gear than what we’ve seen in an NYCFC jersey. You can see he’s a quality player, but only in flashes. He just needs to find a bit more consistency for me. It’s not that he’s had any shocking performances so far, it’s just that he hasn’t contributed quite as much as I was hoping for. With Cushing’s dark horse favorite, Kevin O’Toole, ever looming as left wingback cover, Braian Cufré will have to produce more strong performances, and perhaps add more attacking threat down that left flank than he has.
Kevin O’Toole – 4.8
5 starts, 5 substitute appearances
Kevin won the starting LWB spot over the much higher-rated Malte Amundsen square at the business end of the season last year in New York City’s route to the Eastern Conference Finals. But, with the arrival of Cufré, he’s largely resorted to his backup role behind the Argentinian in 2023.
He’s still made his way into 10 matches this season through 17 played, meaning Cushing still leans on him at times. He certainly brings the attacking confidence necessary for that wing-back role. Maybe he’ll see his minutes grow if Cushing sticks with the 3-4-3.
Luis Barraza – 6.1
16 starts, 0 substitute appearances
I think a 6.1 is harsh for Luis Barraza, who stepped into Sean Johnson’s vacant No 1 slot about as well as I could’ve hoped for.
He’s good with his feet, he’s been mistake-free from a shot-stopping perspective, and he plays with a swagger that I didn’t expect for a keeper who wasn’t even the shoo-in starter for Matchday 1. And, when you consider the struggles Johnson and Toronto are having up North, I think there’s a strong argument to be made that the club made the right decision to move on from the NYCFC legend.
Matt Freese – 5.6
1 start, 0 substitute appearances
Matt Freese was brought in from Philadelphia Union only to become the backup behind NYCFC’s former backup in Barraza. Weird, right?
In all seriousness, Freese is clearly a good keeper, and has a different profile to that of Barraza, boasting a taller frame and better raw shot-stopping ability from what I’ve seen. But, Luis’s ability with his feet and his overall solidity kept him as the starter since week one, and that doesn’t look like that’s changing any time soon.
Player of the Midterms
Gabriel Pereira, 5 POTMs
NYCFC’s most potent attacking threat, Gabi has four goals on the season. If NYCFC develops (or trades for) a more balanced attack, then the winger could score more than the eight goals he logged in 2022. That is, if he maintains a consistency that has sometimes been lacking this year.
And if he keeps on knocking in goals like this one:
Nick Cushing – 4.9
It’s hard to argue for a super high rating for Cushing – or any head coach – when a squad has 18 points in 17 matches. The play on the field hasn’t been good enough, and I think he knows that as well as anybody else.
My stance on the matter has remained firm from the get-go: This season is on the front office.
All the front office have done is sell and scout. The big-budget club legends were replaced by MLS journeymen and NYCFC II players, if they were even replaced at all. But Nick’s job is to win football games. There are clubs in this league that would kill for the likes of Talles Magno, Gabi, Santi, and Sands. While we’re a deeply flawed roster, we have enough talent to be better than we are, and your rating for Cushing reflects that.
Referees – 4.6
I’ve found myself super frustrated with the refereeing in NYCFC matches in particular this season. But, on the macro level, I’m sure that’s a feeling shared by nearly every fan of every club in footballing history…so what are you gonna do, eh?
Apple TV MLS Season Pass Announcers – 4.5
I haven’t loved the announcing so far on Apple TV.
Maybe it’s because Joe Tollison and Ian Joy were just so good, but the fact that every broadcast crew has to learn every squad in the league makes the coverage feel far less personal. It’s very clear Ian and Joe knew the ins and outs of this New York City roster better than the Apple TV teams do, and that hurts the viewing experience for the NYCFC faithful.
Glenn Crooks and Matt Lawrence 7.5
The hometown fans love the hometown broadcasters — and award them the highest rating of the season so far. Makes perfect sense.