'15 Season Preview: NYCFC aims high in inaugural season

( - The 2015 season marks the beginning of a new era, both for Major League Soccer and for New York City sports as New York City Football Club will make its debut.

Since the inception of the league, the only New York-area team has been Red Bull New York, and similarly to the NFL's Jets and Giants, the Red Bulls play in New Jersey.

Now, New York City will have its own team to challenge the Red Bulls and instantly create what will likely be one of the best rivalries in the league going forward.

10 years ago, expectations for expansion teams in MLS were fairly low. The goal was simply to remain competitive, but given the growth of the league, expectations for NYC and their expansion counterparts, Orlando City Soccer Club, will be sky high.

In the current climate of world football, following the money usually leads to success and NYCFC certainly have plenty of it. The club is jointly owned by City Football Group -- the owners of Manchester City in the Premier League -- and MLB's New York Yankees.

City Football Group holds a 75 percent ownership stake, while the Yankees hold a 25 percent stake. With that kind of financial backing, the club has been able to attract both a top-class head coach as well as several world-class players.

At the helm will be former Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, who led RSL to an MLS Cup title in 2009. Kreis took a step back from MLS after leaving RSL and spent the better part of a year in England watching the coaching methods of Manchester City in order to hone his tactics.

On the field, the club will roll out plenty of talent, including European stars David Villa, Frank Lampard and U.S. national teamer Mix Diskerud.

Villa, 35, was the club's first-ever signing when he arrived in the Big Apple on a free transfer from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid in June. Villa brings world-class talent and will thrive up top by himself or with a striker partner.

Lampard, the former Chelsea legend, is likely to arrive in July after the conclusion of the Premier League season. Lampard is currently playing for Manchester City, and there has been some confusion as to whether he will actually be coming to New York.

But the 36-year-old London native reassured NYC fans in January that he will be with the club in the summer.

"I want to make it completely clear about my situation as I have read a lot of lies and nonsense over the last few days," Lampard said in a statement. "When released from Chelsea last year at the end of my contract I signed a commitment to play in NYCFC for two years starting January 1 2015. I was then offered the chance to train and be part of the Man City squad in the interim to keep myself in the best shape going into New York.

"This period has since been extended by Man City and I now will start playing for NYCFC at the end of this current Premier League season. There has always been a constant dialogue between all parties in this time to find the best solution for everyone."

Diskerud, 24, came to New York on a free transfer from Norwegian side Rosenborg after the club moved up to the No. 1 spot in the league's allocation rankings.

Diskerud has been capped 25 times for the U.S. men's team as his star continues to rise, and he should jump right into a No. 10 role with NYCFC.

"Mix is a dynamic midfielder who will easily fit into the style we want to play here in New York City. He keeps possession well and gets everyone involved with his passing range," said NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna.

"New York City FC have made my wish as an American a reality by giving me the opportunity to play and live in the U.S.," Diskerud said.

In addition to those three stars, Kreis and Reyna have assembled a team rife with former RSL players and serviceable MLS veterans.

Midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Sebastian Velasquez, goalkeeper Josh Saunders and defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe should mesh immediately with NYC as they all played for Kreis at RSL.

The club also boasts several reliable veterans in defenders Jeb Brovsky, Jason Hernandez and George John, while Andrew Jacobson, who has had MLS stints with D.C. United, Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas, will help keep possession in the middle of the park.

With several high-caliber stars, plenty of MLS talent and outstanding head coach, the pressure will be on NYCYC to succeed right out of the gate. An MLS Cup title in their first season, might be aiming a little too high, but certainly a playoff appearance will be expected.

KEY PLAYERS: David Villa (F), Frank Lampard (M), Mix Diskerud (M), Ned Grabavoy (M), Patrick Mullins (F).

OUTLOOK: Given the financial power of this club, expectations will be sky high from the outset. With Villa, Lampard and Diskerud, as well as Kreis patrolling the touch line, NYCFC should have a good season. It's unlikely they'll win MLS Cup in their first year, but anything less than a playoff appearance will likely be considered a failure.