There was a glimpse into the new philosophy last year, when then-New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira lauded 16-year-old Joe Scally as the future of the club after his performance in a U.S. Open Cup defeat to the rival New York Red Bulls and when his successor, Dome Torrent, made a similar statement about James Sands after his first MLS start last September.
“Jimmy is our future here and today we found a No. 6 for the next year,” Torrent said about the 18-year-old after the 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution.
Since, NYCFC has continued a youth movement, signing 17-year-old Justin Haak as the club’s third Homegrown player and also adding 21-year-old Keaton Parks and 19-year-old Juan Pablo Torres to its midfield.
“I’m very comfortable to play with these young players because I used to work in that way in Barcelona and many teams,” Torrent said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “For me it’s very important to play homegrown players because I have confidence in them.”
A team once known, for better or worse, for aging European stars, is now banking on its Academy and U.S. youth national team players for its success.
“When you play with these kind of players, these young players, you will make a future,” Torrent said. “We have good Academy players and that means the future is so, so good. It’s so important for us to play every day with more players, young players, Academy players.”
According to Torrent, Scally has solidified his spot in the first team as the No. 2 right back behind Anton Tinnerholm. In particular, Scally’s performance in preseason matches against FC Copenhagen and AIK in Abu Dhabi last week especially impressed Torrent.
“These kind of teams play in the Champions League and the Europa League and Joe played amazing against these teams,” Torrent said.
“Joe will be the player in the first team right now because I am sure he can play with us and help us a lot this year,” Torrent added. “He has to improve, of course, because he’s a young player. It’s about tactically about what happens when he has to defend, respect the line, not watch when the winger has the ball, it’s about these kind of things. But he has focus all the time and the most important thing is he wants to improve. When that happens, when one player is motivated to improve, it’s much better for everybody.”
Torrent’s early impressions about Sands have only strengthened in preseason, extolling his versatility, high energy, “special quality” and ability to wreck havoc in a pressing style.
“I think Jimmy has more opportunities to play this year,” Torrent said. “Right now he’s much better and he’s a player I like a lot because he can play as a center back, but I think about him, he plays much better as a double No. 6 or alone as a holding midfielder. That is our future. Not for the next year, not for Dome, but for New York City Football Club.”
While Scally, Sands and Haak came up through NYCFC’s Academy, Parks[, who arrives on loan from Benfica, and Torres, who signed a multi-year deal after transferring from KSC Lokeren, have a European background.
But more importantly, Torrent said, they have a desire to play in MLS and are “motivated to play with us.”
“For me the most important thing is if they have quality or not and I’m sure they have quality, especially these two players,” Torrent said. “I repeat, it’s not about he’s 19 years old, 20 years old, it’s about the quality. Both have quality to play in MLS. I’m sure.”