Last Saturday, New York City FC took the field with the youngest starting attack in MLS that weekend. Santiago Rodríguez (23), positioned as a False Nine, was flanked Talles Magno (20) on the left and Gabriel Pereira (21) on the right. They were electric, and combined for three goals and one assist: Not only was the NYCFC attack the most youthful to play that match day, they were among the most productive in the league.
They faced off against an FC Dallas starting attack that was the 20th-oldest to take the field that day: Jesús Jiménez (29), Jáder Obrian (27), and Paul Arriola (28) have an average age of 28. To go by conventional wisdom, players in their mid-to-late 20s are in their prime, but the Dallas attacking trio looked flat in comparison to the young guns at the other end of the field.
Not only did NYCFC win 3-1, the Dallas attack didn’t find the back of the net that night – the team’s late consolation goal was scored by defender José Martínez. Youth won the day in Queens.
MLS Matchday 9
Average Age of Starting Attackers
|3||St. Louis City||23.8||0||D|
|8||Real Salt Lake||24.8||3||W|
|24||NJ Red Bulls||28.8||0||L|
If you look at the average ages of the attackers who started in the weekend’s games, two things are striking. One, the kids had better results: The 10 youngest attacks combined for a record of 6 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses.
Two, NYCFC’s attack was significantly younger than those of the rest of the league. It’s not even close: New York City’s average age of 21.3 years was a full 2.5 years younger than those of CF Montréal and St. Louis City.
You don’t want to read too much into a set of data points drawn from a single day, but it’s hard not to feel optimistic about an NYCFC attack that displayed that much flare and skill at those tender ages.
Remember, Rodríguez, Talles Magno, and Pereira are still developing both physically and tactically. For all of the abilities they bring to their games right now, they could still undergo radical upgrades. Case at point: Taty Castellanos. In case you forgot, Castellanos went from a promising but frustrating winger in 2019, to a more composed attacker in 2020, to the best forward in MLS in 2021.
We watched Castellanos grow up — will we get to experience something like that again? After all, this NYCFC team is a work in progress, and coach Nick Cushing could spend the summer molding them into the expression of the attractive, free-flowing soccer he wants his team to play, and that fans pay to see on the field.
New York City next face Toronto FC, which fielded the league’s second-oldest attack last weekend – only the Sporting Kansas City front line was more ancient. Toronto’s aging superstars of Lorenzo Insigne (31), Federico Bernardeschi (29), and Jonathan Osorio (30) combined for an average age of 30 years.
Toronto seems to be leaning heavily into experience over youth by adding 34-year-old striker CJ Sapong from Nashville SC just before the Primary Transfer Window closed last night. NYCFC are familiar with the veteran forward: He started for Nashville when they played NYCFC at Citi Field on April 15.
Nashville’s attack had an average age of 31.7 years that night, while NYCFC’s averaged just 21 years. In case you forgot, NYCFC won 2-1, and defeated Nashville for the first time in club history.
Once again, youth won the day.