A quick appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs saw them eliminated in a dramatic penalty shootout at the hands of their 2015 expansion rivals Orlando City, yet another painful defeat early in the playoffs.
Soon after, City dropped out of the CONCACAF Champions League at the hands of Tigres UANL.
Already thinly stretched after losing Heber to an ACL injury and Alexandru Mitrita on loan in Saudi Arabia, NYCFC played their final matches without a handful of key players.
The depleted City offense was unable to edge out Orlando, and positive COVID tests meant some others, like Sean Johnson, would miss the match against the Tigres.
In the long-awaited rematch of the March contest, Julian Quiñiones put on a show for Tigres, setting up the opening goal before assisting two more in the second half. Another goal sealed their fate in the 85th minute, ending the 2020 campaign with a bitter 4-0 defeat, with Tigres advancing 5-0 on aggregate.
With the loss, City limped into the offseason, where they await a much-needed transformation to recapture their status as a threat in MLS. An early move shocked fans, however, as they were forced to watch the sudden departure of their captain.
Alex Ring, one of City’s most important early signings, is headed to Austin FC as they prepare for their inaugural MLS season. Ring reunites with former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna, who departed New York for the expansion club late last year.
Following City’s elimination from the playoffs, Ring underwent a minor knee surgery, making his appearance against Orlando his last in blue.
Ring served as City captain for the majority of his time in New York, quickly establishing himself as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league.
Ring’s vocal and physical presence on and off the pitch played a big part in City’s transformation into a top club in the East, as “The Ringleader” led New York to their best seasons in the club’s early years.
Another player on his way out is Ronald Matarrita, the Costa Rican international who came to New York in 2016. Over his five-year stint in New York, Matarrita logged just above 100 appearances, joining Ring, Johnson, Maxi Moralez, Maxime Chanot, and Alex Callens as one of a handful of players to hit the milestone during the chaotic 2020 season.
Matarrita played a hard-working role in the New York defense, but despite his effort, he often found himself on the wrong end of big calls.
More than once Matarrita found himself the culprit behind pivotal penalty calls and plays, with defensive issues plaguing NYCFC in their short and bitter playoff history.
Matarrita now heads to FC Cincinnati, who are active ahead of their second season. In exchange, New York gets $500,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), with another $100,000 if he hits season incentives.
The two deals net around $1.9 million in GAM for City, but they lose a leader and big presence in the midfield, as well as a consistent defensive piece.
The influx of cash will aid the search for replacements at multiple positions however, with two Designated Player spots available and plenty of space to work with. It’s clear the club has to start rebuilding a young core that has seen itself depleted multiple times already.
A big name floated around is Uruguayan youngster Santiago Rodriguez. The 20-year-old midfielder plays for Club Nacional in his home country, but recently signed a deal with Montevideo City Torque, owned by City Football Group.
This makes a move probable, but even with the promising star, there is work to be done to rebuild in New York.
After a lackluster 2020, NYCFC has their work cut out for them. The hunt for a home stadium continues on its seemingly unending saga, the financial issues brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and a big rebuilding process all lie ahead of the club.
After ending 2020 on a few sour notes, everyone at the club is looking forward to a big offseason ahead of a pivotal 2021 season for New York City FC.