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Big MLS under-performers: What’s wrong with Austin FC, NYCFC, and Inter Miami

The LA Galaxy and Toronto FC shouldn't get to hog all of the negative spotlight...

5 min read

We’re not even halfway through the MLS season, but a ton of digital ink has already been spilled discussing the LA Galaxy’s flaws and Toronto FC’s issues.

And let’s be clear: there are plenty of reasons to talk about those two teams. The Galaxy have been in turmoil for years — and that turmoil is obviously bleeding into the team’s on-field performances. Toronto FC…well, Toronto are suffering from a case of “Whoops, We Did Pretty Much Everything Wrong” in terms of their organizational structure and squad-building.

But let’s not let the Galaxy and Toronto take up all of the negative MLS discussions! There are plenty of those to go around. Today, we’re diving into what’s wrong with three other high-profile clubs in the league.


New York City FC

It was easy to be confident about NYCFC heading into this season.

They didn’t have a finished squad ahead of opening day, but with City Football Group connections in their back pocket, New York City were always going to have enough cachet to get some key players back into the team. That’s where James Sands and Santiago Rodriguez came in. Between those two guys, Richie Ledezma, and a pair of new fullbacks, plenty of talent joined or rejoined the team for 2023.

And yet? NYCFC are currently sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference and they’re averaging just 1.14 points per game.

When you watch New York City — and when you look at the numbers — it’s clear that their issues come on the attacking side of the ball. Per FBref, they allow a smaller amount of non-penalty xG per 90 than all but six teams in MLS. The attack is a different story, though. Even with Rodriguez, Ledezma, and Talles Magno in the team, they’re just 20th in MLS in non-penalty xG per 90.

One of NYCFC’s biggest issues is their inability to break into the final third. They’re averaging 20 fewer touches in the final third per 90 this year, which is a big problem for a team whose gameplan is predicated on controlled possession. They’re also averaging 20 fewer forward passes per 90 in 2023 compared to 2022.

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