NEW YORK — It’s Game 2 of 34 in the Major League Soccer regular season, but New York City FC coach Dome Torrent is already placing a label on the club’s home opener against D.C. United usually reserved for the fall.
Yes, Sunday afternoon’s showdown at Yankee Stadium is a “must-win” game for the Cityzens.
“We have to win the next game in Yankee Stadium because it’s very important,” Torrent said at the club’s Media Day, which coincided with the second annual 24-hour game at Rockefeller Plaza Friday afternoon. “I know exactly how important it is to win at home because it’s not the same league here as in Spain, Italy, in the Bundesliga or the Premier League. It’s very difficult to win away. Sometimes it’s about the trip, sometimes it’s about the weather, many, many things. It’s very important for us to win in Yankee Stadium.”
The Bronx ballpark was a virtual fortress for NYCFC in 2018 with the club winning 12 of their 17 home games and losing just once. Only Los Angeles Football Club finished the 2018 regular season with one home defeat.
Away from home, NYCFC won just four times.
“We were able last year to win, I don’t know, 90 percent of the points in Yankee Stadium. This is because we have our supporters,” Torrent said. “When that happens we play with 12. I expect this year we play in the same way in Yankee Stadium as last year. We have to play much, much better when we play away.”
One of the few teams to return home with a point from Yankee Stadium was D.C. United, which gutted out a 1-1 early September draw. It was part of United’s late-season playoff push and one of the games Torrent said NYCFC deserved more from at the final whistle.
“I know soccer is about the results, not the performance,” he said. “Sometimes we play really well. I remember last year, especially against D.C., we played really, really well. We created 22 chances and we draw the game.”
While NYCFC squandered a two-goal lead to settle for a 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC Saturday, D.C. United opened the season with one of Week 1’s most impressive performances, a dominant effort in a 2-0 home win over defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United.
The Black-and-Red are being tabbed for a big year in Wayne Rooney’s first full season with the club.
Playmaker Luciano Acosta and Rooney — a dynamic duo dubbed LuchoRoo — torched NYCFC in the second meeting, a playoff-clinching 3-1 victory for D.C. United at Audi Field in the penultimate week of the 2018 regular season.
There’s a lot to be concerned about with D.C. United, but newly-minted NYCFC captain Alex Ring respectfully isn’t losing sleep about the Eastern Conference foes, not in the Bronx.
“They have Acosta and Rooney, good players obviously, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re NYCFC, we’re playing at home, I’m not thinking too much about D.C. United more than the respect every opponent deserves,” Ring said. “They know when they come to Yankee Stadium its not going to be an easy game for them either.”