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Who Are the Best New York City FC Soccer Players of All Time?

Top 10 Best New York City FC Players of All Time

New York City Football Club, or NYCFC, is an MLS team that competes in the Eastern Conference. Founded in 2015, they are the only MLS team that plays home games in New York City. The team has recently found championship success, winning the 2021 MLS Cup and the 2022 Campeones Cup. Keep reading for a list of the greatest NYCFC players of all time.

Top 10 Best New York City FC Players of All Time

  1. David Villa
  2. Valentin Castellanos
  3. Maxi Moralez
  4. Alexander Ring
  5. Frank Lampard
  6. Sean Johnson
  7. Maxime Chanot
  8. Alexander Callens
  9. Héber
  10. Andrea Pirlo

1. David Villa

  • All-time top scorer of the club
  • 126 matches, 80 goals
  • Three-time NYCFC Most Valuable Player

David Villa Sánchez, a renowned Spanish forward recognized as one of the finest in his era, made an unforgettable impression on the realm of soccer. As New York City FC’s inaugural team captain and Designated Player, he made history by scoring their first-ever goal and leading them to victory. Villa’s remarkable performances earned him recognition, including being named the 2016 MLS MVP and participating in the MLS All-Star Game against Real Madrid.

His hat trick against the New York Red Bulls solidified his position as the league’s leading scorer. Notably, Villa reached the incredible milestone of scoring over 400 goals in his career, placing him among the elite few. After retiring, he transitioned into a new role as the Technical Advisor and Head of Global Football Operations for Odisha FC in the Indian Super League. Villa’s reputation as a talented striker and his significant impact on the game persist to resonate.

2. Valentin Castellanos

  • Two-time Player of the Month
  • 134 matches, 59 goals
  • 2020-21 MLS Club champion

Valentin “Taty” Castellanos wasted no time impressing after joining New York City FC on loan in 2018, netting a goal in his debut. NYCFC was so impressed that they exercised their option to buy him for the 2019 season. The Argentinian forward played a vital role in NYCFC’s attack, tallying 11 goals and seven assists in 30 matches that year. Although he faced some challenges in 2020, Castellanos made a strong comeback in 2021, securing the MLS Golden Boot with 19 goals and playing a pivotal part in NYCFC’s MLS Cup triumph.

He further grabbed global attention by scoring four goals against Real Madrid while on loan at Girona in 2023. Notably, Castellanos has also represented the Argentina national under-23 team, showcasing his talent on the international stage. With his consistent performances and remarkable goal-scoring ability, Castellanos has firmly established himself as a rising star in the world of soccer.

3. Maxi Moralez

  • 2019 MLS All-Star
  • 194 appearances, 36 goals
  • 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup Silver Ball and Bronze Shoe

Maxi Moralez, the “Little Genius,” leaves NYCFC as a legend. Arriving in 2017, he made an impact on and off the field, playing 194 matches, scoring 36 goals, and providing 60 assists. He collected an MLS Cup and a Campeones Cup and earned multiple individual honors. Moralez’s creativity, skill, hard work, and leadership were integral to the club’s success.

He played a crucial role in the historic 2021 MLS Cup run, scoring and assisting, including a decisive penalty shootout goal. The following season, he netted the title-winning goal in the 2022 Campeones Cup. Moralez departs as NYCFC’s all-time leader in assists and the top scorer in MLS Cup Playoffs. His best season came in 2019, with seven goals and 20 assists, making him the third player in league history to achieve that milestone. His departure fulfills a dream to return to his native Argentina, leaving behind a lasting legacy at the club.

4. Alexander Ring

  • 2018 MLS All-Star
  • 125 matches, 10 goals
  • Second captain of the club’s history

The Finnish footballer Alex Ring has left an indelible mark on American soccer. Starting his career in Germany with Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Ring returned to Finland before making a move to New York City FC. Over four seasons with NYCFC, he made 120 appearances, scoring 10 goals and providing 13 assists in regular season play. Ring’s exceptional performances earned him recognition as a Coach’s pick for the 2018 MLS All-Star Game, where he started against Juventus FC.

Prior to joining NYCFC, he showcased his skills at 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany. In his international career, Ring represented Finland in 43 matches, scoring goals in tournaments like the World Cup. In 2017, Ring established himself as a key figure in NYCFC’s midfield and was named the club’s Newcomer of the Year. His leadership qualities were acknowledged when he was appointed the second captain in NYCFC’s history in 2019.

5. Frank Lampard

  • Three-time English champion
  • 31 matches, 15 goals
  • 2005 Footballer of the Year

Frank Lampard, an English football legend, enjoyed an extraordinary career as both a player and manager. Renowned as one of Chelsea’s greatest midfielders, Lampard holds multiple Premier League records, including the most goals by a midfielder and the most goals from outside the box. Lampard’s move to New York City FC was marred by controversy and delays, but he eventually made his debut in 2015.

Despite facing injury setbacks, Lampard showcased his brilliance, scoring crucial goals and earning a place in the MLS All-Star Game. In his second season, he delivered a memorable hat-trick, contributing to New York City FC’s historic qualification for the MLS Cup Playoffs. After his stint in the MLS, Lampard announced his retirement in 2017, opting against pursuing coaching qualifications despite offers. His legacy remains intact, as he certainly left a mark on NYCFC and the wider football world, inspiring generations of players and fans alike.

6. Sean Johnson

  • 2022 MLS All-Star
  • 206 matches
  • 2021 MLS Cup MVP

Sean Johnson, an exceptional goalkeeper, has made his presence felt in the world of soccer. After a successful college career at the University of Central Florida, Johnson made his professional debut in 2010 with the Chicago Fire. His seven-year tenure saw him contribute to the team’s 2012 MLS Cup Playoff run. In 2017, Johnson moved to Atlanta United before ultimately joining New York City FC.

As the club captain, Johnson displayed exceptional skills and played a vital role in NYCFC’s historic 2021 MLS Cup victory, making crucial penalty saves in the final against the Portland Timbers and earning the MLS Cup MVP honor. Alongside his club success, Johnson has represented the United States Men’s National Team in various camps and competitions. With a career spanning over 13 years, his outstanding performances and unwavering dedication have established him as one of MLS’s premier goalkeepers, leaving an enduring legacy in the sport.

7. Maxime Chanot

  • 2019 Best Defender of the Year
  • 144 matches, 5 goals
  • 2022 Campeones Cup winner

Maxime Chanot, the central defender from Luxembourg, has made a significant impact on New York City FC since his arrival in 2016. Alongside Alexander Callens, he formed one of the best defensive partnerships in MLS, earning accolades and recognition. Chanot’s leadership and consistency led to him being named NYCFC’s Defender of the Year in 2019 and ranked as the fourth-best defender in the league by Major League Soccer.

His contributions were instrumental in the club’s success, including winning the 2021 MLS Cup and reaching the Eastern Conference Final. Chanot solidified his place as the longest-serving player in the New York City FC club in 2022, when he signed a new three-year contract. Both on and off the field, he became a beloved figure among fans and a respected presence in the locker room. Chanot’s legacy at NYCFC is defined by his defensive prowess, leadership, and dedication to the club’s success.

8. Alexander Callens

  • 2021 MLS Cup winner
  • 193 matches, 15 goals
  • 2022 Campeones Cup winner

Alexander Callens, a stalwart defender, made a significant impact during his time with New York City FC. Since joining in 2017, he has played 193 games, logging over 17,000 minutes and scoring 15 goals. He played a crucial role in the club’s first-ever silverware, winning the 2021 MLS Cup and the 2022 Campeones Cup.

Known as the “Ironman” for his consistency and durability, Alex became a fan favorite. He scored important goals in the playoffs, including the winning goal against Atlanta United and the championship-winning penalty against Portland in the 2021 MLS Cup. In the 2022 Campeones Cup, he opened the scoring to secure a 2-0 victory against Atlas FC His performances earned him an MLS All-Star selection in 2022 and made him a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year. In 2022, Callens officially left New York City FC to join the Girona Futbol Club in Europe.

9. Héber

  • 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year
  • 88 matches, 30 goals
  • 2015-16 Armenian Premier League top scorer

Héber’s rise as a formidable striker is a testament to his talent and perseverance. Starting at Figueirense FC, he netted 17 goals, aiding their promotion to the top flight. Joining NYCFC in 2019, Héber immediately made an impact, leading the team with 15 goals and earning recognition as a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year. In 2020, a cruciate ligament injury limited his appearances, but he still contributed with a goal and two assists, including a memorable hat trick in the Concacaf Champions League.

After recovering, Heber played a crucial role in NYCFC’s successful 2021 campaign, featuring in the MLS Cup-winning squad. In 2022, he continued to impress with 11 goals, demonstrating his scoring prowess across competitions. Now, the Sounders have acquired Heber, recognizing his abilities by offering $400,000 in guaranteed general allocation money. With 30 goals in 88 appearances for NYCFC, Heber’s impact on the field is undeniable.

10. Andrea Pirlo

  • 62 matches, 1 goal
  • Three-time Footballer of the Year
  • Highest-paid MLS player of 2015 ($8 million salary)

Andrea Pirlo, the maestro of Italian football, was known for his exquisite vision, ball control, technique, creativity, passing, and free-kick prowess. His illustrious career included a move to the MLS expansion franchise New York City FC in 2015, where he became the highest-paid Italian player at the time. Despite criticism of his defensive work rate, Pirlo’s impact was felt as he contributed to goals and earned a nomination for the FIFPro World XI. In 2016, he showcased his skills further, delivering assists and scoring his first MLS goal from a free kick.

However, persistent physical problems led to Pirlo’s final retirement announcement in 2017. Throughout his three seasons with New York City FC, he made 62 appearances, scoring one goal and providing 18 assists in the MLS regular season. Pirlo’s retirement was celebrated with a testimonial match at San Siro Stadium in Milan in 2018, honoring his remarkable contributions to the sport.

Honorable Mentions

  • Alexandru Mitriță
  • Anton Tinnerholm
  • Gabriel Pereira
  • Jack Harrison
  • James Sands
  • Joe Scally
  • Keaton Parks
  • Kwame Watson-Siriboe
  • Ronald Matarrita
  • Santiago Rodríguez