Thrilling, dramatic, captivating; The third edition of the Indian Super League has, by a mile, been the most entertaining. Matches have been won and points have been stolen in the sort of fashion that left the viewers’ tongues wagging, first in the stadium, and later on social media. Barring FC Goa, all 7 teams have shown desire and spark, some better than others, but all in all, the quality of football displayed on the pitch is one of the key reasons why ISL 3 has been a significant success.
One team in particular, has moved the needle completely and that team hails from the commercial capital of the natioan : Mumbai City FC. Finishing 7th and 8th in the first two seasons respectively, the Financial capital of India disappointed fans and critics alike. Peter Reid, in season 1, started decently as Mumbai were in the top half of the table after the first round of fixtures. In season 2, Player-manager Nicolas Anelka managed to do the same. In both cases, the team suffered dreadful defeats midway through the season and saw themselves languishing at the bottom by the end of it. This year, Alexandre Guimarães came in like a breath of fresh air. The Ranbir Kapoor-owned team have performed exceptionally well under the former Costa Rica manager, but more importantly, have been consistent.
After 13 games, Mumbai City FC were the first team to qualify for the playoffs with 22 points on the board. The combination of a solid defence and fluid forward play undoubtedly makes them the team to beat in the ISL. There have been some key players in this Mumbai City FC whos have played an instrumental role in making sure that the team reaches its first semifinals.
Lucian Goian is the first such name that comes to our minds. Mumbai City FC have conceded just 5 goals this season, and they have Lucian Goian to thank for that. Starting every match so far, the Romanian has been rock solid at the back. The likes of Khonjee and Ralte have shined this season, and a major factor for that is the presence of Goian, who organizes the backline in the way that nobody in the ISL can do better. Apart from this, he also has one goal to his name and has the ability to make his presence felt during set pieces.
Kriztian Vadocz, the 31-year Old Hungarian has arguably been Mumbai’s best player, and holds the most important role in the team. Vadocz sits in front of the back four, and has hardly allowed anything get past him this season. But that’s not why Vadocz is so crucial. Apart from shielding the goal, his contribution going forward has been immense. 3 goals in 13 appearances, and stellar displays as a midfielder sets him apart as a key figure in the side.
Marquee players Diego Forlan has proven to be a massive signing for the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned side. If Goian has been the hero for Mumbai at the back, it has been Forlan going forward. There have been umpteen occasions where marquee’s haven’t delivered the goods and haven’t displayed performances that would justify their wages. However, Diego Forlan has been worth every cent. An assist in the first game and a goal in the second set the foundation for what would come next from the former Manchester United, Villareal and Atletico Madrid man. A hat-trick in the 5-0 demolition of the Kerala Blasters set the Andheri Sports complex alight. The numbers speak volumes of Forlan’s contribution : 5 goals and 2 assists in 10 appearances. The Uruguayan might not have age on his side, but he’s certainly still got the class.
Matias Defederico, the 27-year old magician has been Forlan’s partner in crime. Defederico, on paper, played behind Forlan in the hole, but he likes to drift to the right on most occasions, leaving Vadocz to occupy the central role. Defederico is another one of the many fresh signings of Mumbai City FC, and surely one the best ones to. He scored Mumbai’s first goal of the season away at Pune to secure their first win, and has since impressively carried the team in attack in the absence of Forlan and Chhetri. He probably has the best numbers in the team : 3 goals and 3 assists in 11 appearances. The little Argentine is on fire!
When a team performs like Mumbai City FC have, you know all eleven players have played their roles well. Apart from the four mentioned, Sunil Chhetri, Leo Costa, Sehnaj Singh and Anwar Ali have also played a major role. The addition of Bengaluru FC after their AFC Cup commitments has only benefited the team. If the Mumbaikars are to lift the trophy this year, Alexandre Guimaraes will expect his team to display performances of similar nature, and that they cannot afford to put their foot off the gas.