After a blazing 6-2-1 start to Domenec Torrent’s coaching tenure, NYCFC has managed just one triumph in its last eight matches, sparking concerns that Torrent’s side is not responding appropriately to the Catalan’s fervent demands.
But sporting director Claudio Reyna said the uneven routines are more the result of factors outside of Torrent’s control. Reyna said he sympathizes with the challenge Torrent faced when he took over the team in June, following former coach Patrick Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice.
“It’s underestimated how difficult it is to transition, first of all to a new country and life, and then take over the team in the middle of a season,” Reyna said. “I’ve been very happy with it. You’re coming to a new everything after 11 years in a different role as a coach. It’s been a really good transition.”
Vieira concluded his tenure as New York City FC coach in a home match against Atlanta United that ended in a 1-1 draw. The warm, extended embraces between Vieira and players after NYCFC staged one of their best performances signified the end of an era and showed the admiration and respect the players had for their manager.
NYCFC was 8-3-4 at the time and a strong contender for the Supporters Shield.
Torrent grasped the reigns from there, leaving his post as the longtime assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Torrent claimed 24 trophies as an 11-year lieutenant to Guardiola.
Major League Soccer is a different species.
“He’ll be the first to admit that we could have played better, but he’s addressing it,” Reyna said. We’ve been dealt a strange schedule in terms of the amount of time off. That’s been something to manage that’s unique for him. Overall, the players are very committed and he’s really happy with the group.”
With every forward player missing time due to injury, international duty or loan, New York City has managed only seven goals in the last eight matches. Over the first 24 games, City averaged two scores per contest.
“We’ve been playing really well, and we’re just at the point where we need a couple of goals to get us going again – that’s the only thing that’s missing,” Reyna said. “When Dome first came, we were scoring goals regularly. And I think now, having everybody back fully fit with the last two games left is exciting and he’s looking forward to the playoffs.”
After failing to qualify for the postseason in the 2015 expansion year, the Cityzens reached the playoffs in both 2016 and 2017 with similar results – a failure to advance.
Reyna has elevated expectations.
“I think similar to last year and the year before, the team is good enough to make a run in MLS and compete against anybody,” Reyna said. “When you look at all the phases of the team, we’re strong and there’s no reason we can’t go into the playoffs full of confidence, with a real belief that we can win the whole Cup.”
NYCFC has two regular-season matches remaining — starting Sunday at D.C. United — to regain an edge before a knockout playoff match.
“Just being the team we were throughout big periods of the season, where we were considered one of the best teams in the league,” Reyna said when asked about his expectations. “And that’s what I look forward to seeing on the field, and everybody committing to that.”