New York City FC: Should Dome Torrent be under pressure?

BRONX, NY - MARCH 10: Domenec Torrent Head Coach of New York City FC walks off the pitch after the 2019 Major League Soccer Home Opener match between New York City FC and DC United at Yankee Stadium on March 10, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York. The match ended in a tie with a score of 0 to 0. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
BRONX, NY - MARCH 10: Domenec Torrent Head Coach of New York City FC walks off the pitch after the 2019 Major League Soccer Home Opener match between New York City FC and DC United at Yankee Stadium on March 10, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York. The match ended in a tie with a score of 0 to 0. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images) /

Domenec Torrent has had a disappointing start to his first full season in charge of New York City FC. Should his job be under scrutiny this early?

New York City FC have gotten off to a disappointing start to the 2019 MLS campaign. The club currently stands winless, drawing three and losing one. Head coach Domènec Torrent took over the club following Patrick Viera’s departure midway through last season. After a poor finish to the 2018 season, as well as a rough start to 2019, Torrent must remain resolute under the pressure that will mount if results do not improve.

Torrent was previously the assistant manager under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He was a member of the club’s amazing 2017/18 Premier League campaign. He was also part of the staff during Pep’s time with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The qualities that he developed during his time with Guardiola have been invaluable to his approach with managing NYCFC. Yet, the promise that was once bestowed upon him when he first joined the club has been lessened following the difficulties arising from inconsistent performances.

It would be remise to not point out the important fact that New York City FC have had a difficult schedule in the opening weeks of the season. They began with an away game in Orlando followed by a tough matchup with D.C. United and the top class Los Angeles FC. The Blues most recently lost by a horrid 4-0 scoreline away to the promising Toronto FC, who hava a 100% record.

Regardless, the club was unable to see out their two matches against Orlando City SC and Los Angeles FC. Torrent’s men had been leading both up until the final fifteen minutes of play. A close-range goal from Tesho Akindele of Orlando City SC and a penalty call which was slotted home by Carlos Vela of Los Angeles FC resigned New York City FC to two draws.

The 4-0 away loss to Toronto FC is more of an outlier, rather than something that should be expected in the future. The numerous players that had been away on international duty credibly inhibited the preparation and energy of the side at BMO Field.

Dig deeper into the statistics, and the picture is not as bleak as many portray. In the two home games this season, NYCFC has dominated possession with over 60% in each match. Against D.C. United, New York City FC had 456 accurate passes to D.C.’s 190. In all but one of their matches, Torrent’s men had over 70 long balls.

These statistics go to show that there is a designated strategy that Torrent is trying to implement with his side, and for the most part, he has stuck to his plan. The strategy has been to use his wide players and striker to get in behind the defense. It can be preceded by a patient approach from the midfield led by Alex Ring, which is structured around looking for the right opportunity.

(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

James Sands has started every game at the defensive midfield position since returning to the club from loan with Louisville City FC. In a 4-1-4-1 formation, the defensive midfielder is key to linking up the play from the defense to the midfielders and wide players.

A defensive midfielder must also be in constant contact with the defenders to assist in covering up holes and closing down attackers when the opposition is pushing forward. As a result, Sands must continue to foster effective communication amongst his surrounding teammates to get the best out of Torrent’s style of play.

Sands could be the key to New York City FC throughout the season. He was the first-ever player for NYCFC to receive a Homegrown Player contract. Torrent has put faith in Sands as a promising player in his starting XI. Sands must return the faith placed in him with consistent performances.

Defensive mistakes have proved costly for the Blues. Carlos Vela’s first goal came from a poor header, resulting in an easy through ball to Vella. The tying goal by Orlando City SC materialized when Dom Dwyer was able to sneak behind the Blues’ defense for an easy pass from the left side of the penalty box over to Tesho Akindele.

Torrent needs to rectify these issues if New York City FC are to have any chance of putting together a successful campaign. These problems do not necessarily point to a fundamental flaw either, which indicates that more work on the training pitch could be the solution.

New York City FC look to be on the verge of making progress in the next few weeks, and Torrent was quick to acknowledge his own fault for the loss to Toronto FC:

"“It’s my fault because I didn’t read the game [In regards to players coming back from international duty]. I have to improve in that for the next game when they come back [from] the national team.”"

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Torrent will be anticipating the inclusion of new signing Héber can bring some life and excitement into a squad that now that needs some reassurance in attack. After moving from Croatian club, Rijeka, NYCFC will want Heber to replicate his goalscoring record of 25 goals in 38 appearances. It is difficult to expect that the current attacking forces can recreate David Villa’s effectiveness in front of goal, but they should be expected to alleviate any concerns about creating goal scoring opportunities.

This past offseason was the first full window for Torrent to build a squad to his liking. It will naturally take time for the adjustments to have the opportunity to represent the final product. New York City FC is, after all, his first managerial job since Girona FC in 2005/06. Torrent is also learning how to lead a team after being in the shadows of Guardiola.

New York City FC’s next match will be at home against the Montreal Impact, who suffered an embarrassing 7-1 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City. Torrent should not be inordinately concerned about the current situation of the club. There have been positives to take away from this season and it is difficult to read too much into a manager’s performance without having time to format the club to fit into his tactical strategy.

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A promising future lies ahead for New York City FC. They have all of the tools to put together a formidable challenge for the MLS Cup Playoffs. But for now, Torrent must be resolute under pressure.