MLS Expansion Club's Makeup May Change Dramatically In Coming Weeks

By Glenn Crooks
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The initial stages of what may result in five or six player moves this summer at New York City FC began Tuesday with the addition of two outside backs from Spain.

The expansion side announced that it had signed La Liga veteran fullback Andoni Iraola, from Athletic Bilbao, and, on a season-long loan from the Manchester City Elite Development Squad, Jose Angel Tasande, more commonly known as Angelino.

Although they are both introduced as defenders, Iraola, 32, and Angelino, just 18, are expected to provide a missing element for New York City – a consistent attacking presence out of the back, with Iraola on the right and Angelino on the left. Angelino scored three goals from left back in his final appearance for the Manchester City youth squad.

Iraola made 510 appearances and scored 38 goals for Bilbao over 12 seasons. The Basque right back appeared in 30 or more league matches in 11 consecutive seasons.

“I think it’s fantastic to be able to add a player (Iarola) with that much experience and quality at a critical time of the season,” said NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis, who would not commit to Iraola at right back. “We are adding a versatile player who is comfortable playing in a number of different positions. We are adding a great professional.”

With the transfer window opening on July 8 and with Frank Lampard arriving soon to being training with NYCFC, one could anticipate a very different lineup when New York City hosts Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium on July 12 – David Villa, Lampard, Iarola in for NYC, while Toronto boasts names Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. And let’s not forget the national television audience.

The rotating fullback unit of Josh Williams (injured), Javier Calle (injured), Jeb Brovsky (moderately effective), RJ Allen (rookie mistakes) and Chris Wingert (consistent but not dynamic) has been inadequate on the attack, especially in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond midfield where regularly there is massive space to allow forays into the attack.

I would anticipate a back line on July 12 that looks like this from left to right:  Wingert, Shay Facey, Jason Hernandez and Iraola – or possibly Wingert moves back to the middle where he has spent a majority of the season to present a back four of Angelino, Wingert, Facey and Iarola. While Hernandez was recently named to the MLS Team of the Week, his standard has been inconsistent on both sides of the ball.

Throw-Ins

— The Cosmos of the North American Soccer League will host New York City in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m. Kreis, prior to the 3-1 win over Montreal on Saturday, dispelled any notion that New York City will hold back in this match.

“It’s a chance at a trophy,” said Kreis

With a critical Eastern Conference match at Toronto looming, Kreis suggested he will still put out the squad that will give his side the best prospect to advance in the Cup – with an interesting caveat based on his experience. Kreis hinted that on occasion veteran players place little relevance on a match like this. Expect an NYC lineup that blends a group of ambitious youth and energized veterans.

— Kreis earned his 100th coaching victory on Saturday. Whenever I hear about someone arriving at the century mark in any category of sports, I consider what former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee said following his 100th win.

“The only thing important about the number 100 is that the cactus sprouts every 100 years,” Lee said.

Then again, Lee’s nickname, “Spaceman,” provided an apt description of the left-hander.

— Villa, who scored the opening goal in the win over Montreal, following an attractive four-player combination, was named the MLS Player of the Week on Tuesday.

— U.S. Women’s National Team center back Julie Johnston was the player of the match in the draw with Sweden on Friday. However, her assessment of the team’s play provided complimentary components that failed to exist.

“We had great possession and moved the ball well,” said Johnston, who did not play one minute in the World Cup qualifiers in November.

That may have been an accurate description of her own performance, but the U.S. women were woefully short on ideas and lacked the kind of ball movement and combinations that could have enabled a three-point outcome.

— The U.S. should handle African Cup champion Nigeria on Tuesday night to finish first in Group D and set up a potential rematch of the 2011 World Cup final against Japan in the quarterfinals.

Glenn Crooks is the color commentator for New York City FC on WFAN and the former head soccer coach at Rutgers University. You can follow him on Twitter at @GlennCrooks and glenncrooks.sportsblog.com.

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