After New York City FC’s last-gasp draw against D.C. United, Anton Tinnerholm said that he’d rather win poorly than draw when playing well. His manager, Domenec Torrent, said that he was pleased with a good performance but a bad result. Tinnerholm has the wrong end of the stick.
New York City FC are in a strange position. They have essentially qualified for the playoffs. They are essentially not going to catch either Atlanta United or the New York Red Bulls. They simply have to play out the remainder of the season and prepare for the playoffs.
That changes things. Because they are not desperate for points like other teams might be, the result is not nearly as important as how the match sets them up for the playoffs — what is now critical for NYCFC is that they peak when the postseason rolls around.
It is difficult, in a sport that the result is exclusively the aim of any fixture, to alter our perspectives as such to prioritise playing your best when it matters most and focusing on the alterations in process that that impacts.
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Domenec Torrent, the head coach of New York City FC, however, is clearly in tune to these changes. Speaking after the last-gasp 1-1 draw with D.C. United at the weekend, in which the performance was an improvement on recent outings but the result was still a disappointment, Torrent was keen to express his happiness with the match:
"“When I say anytime that I want to create a style, the style is the way they played tonight <…> I said to them I’m really proud of you because you played really well. At the end if you are able to play that way every single game, you are ready to play in the playoffs.”"
Contrast those comments to what Anton Tinnerholm, one of Torrent’s players, said:
"“I’d rather take a win when we’re playing [poorly] than a point where we’re playing fantastic.”"
Now, in general, Tinnerholm would be correct. Maximising the result is all that matters. And I’m sure that when the playoffs roll around, Torrent will be singing from the same hymn sheet as his defender. But in this context, it the process, the performance, the way in which the result is earned, not the result itself, that matters.
As Torrent recognises, what is most important for NYCFC is that they put themselves in the best possible position to win in the postseason. That has very little to do with the results that they are getting at this point. It is all about improving the performance such that they are peaking at the right time.
Now, whether this was a good performance or not is a very different debate. There is a very plausible and reasonable argument to be made that NYCFC did not actually play all that well — they only created one really good opportunity, despite such domination of possession.
But the point still stands that it is the performance, not the result, that matters. Tinnerholm has got the wrong end of the stick. Torrent has not. Whether that means anything when the playoffs come, however, remains to be seen.