Just as Alexandru Mitrita earned his way back into New York City FC’s starting lineup, when he’ll make his next appearance for the club suddenly is unclear.
Mitrita is returning to his home country of Romania for the FIFA international break, NYCFC announced Monday, both to compete for the Romanian national team and to attend to a personal matter.
New FIFA guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic allow for a club to deny an international call-up when there is a mandated quarantine window of five or more days upon return from international travel. New York State health guidelines gave NYCFC the ability to do just that with defender Alexander Callens, who will stay with the club despite a call-up to the Peruvian national team for its upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Anton Tinnerholm and Maxime Chanot, who play for the national teams of Sweden and Luxembourg, respectively, also will stay with NYCFC for the international break following discussions with the soccer federations of those countries.
Mitrita’s personal situation, however, prompted the club’s decision to make an exception for the winger, although it could leave the team without one of its key offensive weapons for the remainder of the regular season. The designated player struggled to find a consistent place in Ronny Deila’s side for large stretches of 2020 but has raised his output in the absence of injured striker Héber and midfielder Maxi Moralez, scoring twice in each of the last two matches.
"The timing of this FIFA window, given the COVID-19 pandemic, has been incredibly challenging to navigate," NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a news release. "We know how important it is to our players to represent their countries and so these decisions were difficult.
"We believe it is in the best interests of players’ health and safety to avoid international travel at this time and maintain MLS’s strict protocols. It is with that in mind that Alex [Callens], Anton and Maxime have not joined their national teams. [Mitrita] was allowed to travel as he had unique circumstances that meant he needed to attend a personal matter."
NYCFC faces D.C. United on Wednesday with Callens, Tinnerholm and Chanot all available for selection. How the club replaces Mitrita in attack remains to be seen.
Mitrita’s international duty is scheduled to end Oct. 14. Should his personal matter be resolved and he immediately return to the United States, he still would be required to quarantine for 14 days in accordance with state guidelines, making him unavailable until Oct. 28 at the earliest. NYCFC plays five times before then and visits Toronto FC on that date. Should that match not be feasible, Mitrita may only return for the final two matches of the regular season, if at all before the postseason.