“They defend with eight and attack with two.”
New York City FC head coach Dome Torrent understands the perils that await Sunday in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal against Atlanta United.
The Five Stripes lead 1-0 on aggregate following their triumph at Yankee Stadium in leg one and feature a dynamic and often lethal counterattack — especially in the expanses of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the 5:30 p.m. ET match will be held.
“They are most dangerous when they recover the ball and attack quickly,” Torrent explained. “We have to attack but we have to control these two or three players as well (Migel Almiron, Josef Martinez and Hector Villalaba or Ezequiel Barco). Everybody knows how important these players are.”
The pair in New York City’s central defense – Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens – are alert to the tactics implemented by Atlanta coach Tata Martino.
“We do know that Atlanta is very good on the counter attack,” the Peruvian Callens said through a translator. “Here at training we’ve been very, very focused to prepare for that.”
Trailing by a goal, NYCFC will be in an attacking frame of mind and the result of Martino’s well drilled counter machine could leave the City center backs in isolated situations – a challenge Callens eagerly accepts.
“Yes, that’s our style,” Callens said. “All year long we’ve been used to playing 1v1 and 2v2 – we like it.”
But with the golden boot winner Martinez (31 goals) and the extraordinary midfielder Almiron (12 goals, 14 assists), Torrent prefers a less hazardous scenario.
“In the last 15 minutes they could kill us in the counter attack,” Torrent said. “We defend two against two and that can happen. If they have two players up, we need three – not one by one or two by two because they have quality and they have fast players.”
Torrent, now 9-8-4 in all competitions for NYCFC, is assured that his side will be tactically prepared.
“We’ve practiced two or three different ways to play against them,” Torrent said. “We have to be ready to play in different ways. I’m happy because when we practice in different ways they understand exactly what I am looking for.”