January 3, 2016
Just who are the local soccer people to watch in 2016?
By Michael Lewis
Can Jesse Marsch reproduce the magic he instilled with the Red Bulls in his first season with the club, in 2016?
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Here are 16 people in the metro area to watch in soccer in 2016.
1. Patrick Vieira
Despite not an ounce of Major League Soccer experience, the 1998 World Cup winner will be thrown into the fire in his first head coaching assignment. Can Vieira do what the sacked Jason Kreis failed to do in its maiden season -- boost New York City FC into the playoffs? It will be interesting what
2. and 3. Jesse Marsch and Ali Curtis
After a controversial start, Curtis, the sporting director, and Marsch, the coach, got the Red Bulls onto the right path en route to the Supporters Shield. Can they continue not only their success during the regular season, but make it translate into an elusive first league title as well?
4. Frank Lampard
After his NYC FC debut was delayed via duplicity by Manchester City and the MLS club owners, the 37-year-old Lampard played the final three months with the side. While there is no question about his goal-scoring ability, the big question is whether he can play consistent full games at midfielder. His speed is in question.
5. Giovanni Savarese
The Cosmos head coach has several challenges ahead: One is to find the right player to replace either and/or both Raul and Marcos Senna, who retired after the 2015 season. Can Savarese find the right formula to boost the reigning North American Soccer League champions to their third title in four seasons?
6. Claudio Reyna
As the man who pushed to hire Kreis, Reyna certainly was caught in the middle of things when the head coach was fired last year. You have to wonder how much of a hotseat the former U.S. national team captain will be on this year to produce -- or else. The powers that be at ManCity seem to have a quick trigger.
7. Luis Robles
Can the Red Bulls' goalkeeper continue his stellar performances and his amazing ironman streak. Barring injury and a sudden drop of form, Robles is poised to surpass former keeper Kevin Hartman as the MLS' all-time iron man. Robles has played in 106 consecutive matches. Hartman played in 112 games in a row.
8. Bradley Wright-Phillips
Can the Red Bulls striker put together another productive season after two fabulous seasons filling the net? BWP tied an MLS record by connecting for 44 goals in consecutive seasons (27 in 2014 and 17 more in 2015). Following that up would be remarkable.
9. Crystal Dunn
After a fabulous 2015, the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native and Washington Spirit striker seems to have secured a spot on the U.S. women's Olympic team, assuming the Americans qualify in Houston next month. Can she have a season close to the one she enjoyed last year in which she led the National Women's Soccer League in scoring and earned MVP honors? Duplicating such an accomplishment would be too much to ask of anyone.
10. Matt Miazga
Will he go or will he stay? Thanks to his meteoric rise domestically and internationally, the Red Bulls' 20-year-old central defender has become one hot property. There are signs will he go across the pond and play in Europe as early as this year. Some observers feel he might need another year of seasoning in MLS. One thing is sure: the Clifton Park, N.J. native is destined to play overseas, sooner or later.
11. David Villa
The Spanish international striker enjoyed a marvelous 2015, striking a team-high 18 times for NYC FC. Can he continue that production being a year older at 34, an age in which many forwards’ goal total start going south?
12. Kwadwo Poku
Underused but certainly not underappreciated, Poku certainly was a revelation and a half to hand while he did get some playing time for NYC FC. Can Vieira find a regular role for this exciting midfielder who seemed to add a spark to the side whether he was starting or coming off the bench?
13. Cosmos DP
OK, there are no official Designated Players in the NASL, but you know what I mean. Just who will replace Senna and Raul as the new talisman of the team? The Cosmos are a solid team, but with the right influential foreign player, we saw how devastating they could be at winning games and producing championships.
14. and 15. Rachel Daly and Leah Galton
They were program changers at St. John's University and Hofstra University, respectively. With both women intent on continuing their careers at the professional level in the NWSL, can these two Harrogate, England natives continue to make a big impact at that level?
16. Sky Blue coach
Just who will be Sky Blue FC's coach? Good question. At least two people have turned down the job. With the National Women's Soccer League draft at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Baltimore on Jan. 14, it would be nice to have someone in charge to make the proper choices.