New York City Football Club have kicked off the 2023 campaign with a Preseason trip to Orlando, Florida.
A total of 31 players have made the roster, including six players that have recently participated in our Academy setup, some of who now represent NYCFC II.
Learn more about our young stars, as we catch up with NYCFC II Head Coach Matt Pilkington...
NAME: Alex Rando
DOB: April 15, 2001 (21)
A New York native, Rando featured in the original NYCFC U-14 Academy team back in 2015 and went on to lift back-to-back US Development Academy National Championships with the U-19s. He also claimed the 2019 Golden Glove award, and was named in the 2017 Generation Adidas Cup Championship Team.
Though his collegiate career was sadly hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, he impressed with USL Championship club Las Vegas Lights before re-joining NYCFC for our maiden MLS NEXT Pro campaign. The Manhattan-born shot-stopper started 18 games in total, earning the second-highest number of minutes for a goalkeeper in the league, keeping five clean sheets. In August 2022, he was invited to represent NYCFC at the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.
MATT PILKINGTON: "Alex spent a lot of time training with the First-Team last year and adapted well to that experience. He's a player that came through our Academy, and was one of the goalkeepers on our Youth National Championship-winning teams. He had a really good season with us and developed on and off the field. He's someone who will go in to support the goalkeepers and be ready to contribute to the environment, and also act as a mentor for the Academy goalkeeper."
NAME: Alexander Yagudayev
DOB: August 13, 2006 (16)
Yagudayev was also named in the 2022 Preseason roster and continues to make a name for himself as a bright young prospect. Despite his tender years, he is a highly-regarded shot-stopper with excellent distribution and a commanding presence. He produced notable displays in the Generation Adidas Cup last year, dramatically saving an injury-time penalty against Charlotte FC to send NYCFC through to the quarter-finals.
MATT PILKINGTON: "Alexander is a player that has come through our Academy from the youngest age, so he's been with us all the way through. He's continued to progress and he's matured a lot over the past year. We're hoping this will be a great opportunity for him to continue to learn and develop within the First Team environment."
NAME: Klevis Haxhari
DOB: May 1, 2005 (17)
The Bronx-born defender enjoyed a year to remember in 2022, having made the step up from the Academy to NYCFC II, as the first Academy player to have signed a professional contract with the MLS NEXT Pro side. The youngster had been included in the 2022 First Team Preseason roster and went on to shine for NYCFC II, playing seven times, showcasing his strength, bravery and impressive understanding of the game. Representing the Albanian U-19 National Team, he featured in the UEFA Championship qualifiers in September.
MATT PILKINGTON: "Klevis was promoted from U17 Academy team to NYCFC II last year and adapted really well to the level. He was our first official signing from the Academy to the Second Team, and this is his second Preseason with the First Team. He's an imposing center back, and a very good defender. He has a lot of potential, and he's been working really hard in the off-season. He's taking that next step on his path, from the Academy to NYCFC II and this will be a good test to see where he's at in a First Team environment."
NAME: Jonathan Shore
DOB: April 13, 2007 (15)
A versatile and intelligent midfielder, Shore is also embarking on his second successive First Team Preseason adventure. Regarded as an exciting young prospect, the teenager is admired for his consistency and made two appearances for NYCFC II in the MLS NEXT Pro campaign in 2022, whilst featuring regularly for the U-15s. He has been selected once again for the USMYNT's U-16s camp.
MATT PILKINGTON: "Jonathan has had another really good year. He’s continued to develop and build on the experience from Preseason last year. He's very young and deserves the call-up to based on his consistent high level of training and performance. He continues to improve, which is an important part of his pathway.”
NAME: Johnny Denis
DOB: February 3, 1998 (24)
Another New York native, Denis signed for NYCFC II's inaugural team ahead of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season, and scored the side's first competitive goal after just nine minutes of our maiden fixture. A creative player with an impressive goalscoring record - he netted 14 goals in 18 appearances last term - he was born in Yorktown Heights, and played his soccer locally before joining City. In 2016, he was called-up for the U.S. Under-19 Men’s National Team.
MATT PILKINGTON: “Johnny is one of the more established Second Team players. He's contributed a lot with goals and top performances. He’s a very dynamic player that is an accomplished finisher.. Based on his performances and his ability to handle the intensity of the First Team, he will be a good addition to pre-season."
NAME: Din Klapija
DOB: January 5, 2007 (15)
The forward, who has progressed through the NYCFC Academy ranks, has impressed with a string of performances beyond his years. In 2022, he featured for the U-15s, scoring in the Generation Adidas Cup, and continues to thrive with increased experience. Known for his goalscoring ability, he has also been included in the USMYNT U-16 roster, alongside Jonathan Shore.
MATT PILKINGTON: "Din has performed really well in the Academy over the past few years. He's very dynamic, and can score goals. He's shown a lot of promise this past season and I'm pleased he’s been given this opportunity to test himself in a First Team environment."
NYCFC will kick off the 2023 MLS season on Feb. 25 when we visit Nashville SC at GEODIS Park (4:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).