NEW YORK — Just four weeks into the 2019 MLS season, the inequities of the “international break” have been exposed.
Last weekend, 10 MLS teams were involved in league competition – many without key first team members who were away representing their nations during the FIFA pause.
“When I watched the MLS games this week, I imagined if New York City had to play these games,” City head coach Dome Torrent told Pro Soccer USA after training on Wednesday.
The imagery is not pleasing.
New York City had 10 players called away from March 18-26 – a scheduled break when FIFA mandates that clubs must release players.
Torrent is accustomed to the rigors and imbalances of competing during the international break. A little over two months into his MLS coaching career, Torrent had to prepare two matches in four days while missing four pieces to his first team unit during a September 3-11 FIFA intervention in 2018.
On September 5, the Pigeons suffered their only home loss of the season to New England, 1-0.
Had New York City been scheduled during the most recent interruption, Torrent would have had only 14 players available.
Here’s a glance at the probable starters and reserves in this scenario:
The front six includes a group of regulars – James Sands, Alex Ring and Ebenezer Ofori in the midfield with Maxi Moralez, Taty Castellanos and Jesus Medina comprising the forward line. At the back, 16-year old Joe Scally would have made his regular season professional debut flanked by Sebastian Ibeagha, Tony Rocha and Ben Sweat with Brad Stuver in goal.
Torrent would have had but three options on the bench – midfielders Danny Bedoya and Justin Haak plus goalkeeper, Luis Barazza.
“This is my question sometimes,” Torrent said. “MLS is getting better – 100-percent – but maybe we have to find a solution because if you want to play a balanced league it’s about that. Imagine if we played this week -the rest of the teams as well. It’s not just about New York City.”
Torrent will brace for the second international break on the FIFA calendar – June 3-11. The Bronx boys will have a home match against FC Cincinnati on Thursday night, June 6.
“It is strange for me when I’ve worked with many teams in Europe and the rest of the world stops their competition and MLS decides to play even when you are missing many players,” Torrent said. “I have to accept.”
While City had no matches scheduled, there is still uncertainty about the availability of three starters for Friday night’s match at Toronto FC.
Alexandru Mitriță, Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita were not scheduled to arrive back into New York for training until Thursday.
“I have a clear idea of how I want to play against Toronto but I need to speak with the players,” Torrent said. “It’s an individual thing. I have to speak to the players who arrive tomorrow (Thursday) – Matarrita, Mitri and Anton.”
Mitriță played the first 45 minutes for Romania in their 2-1 loss to Sweden and did not participate in a 4-1 triumph over the Faroe Islands on Tuesday.
Regardless, Torrent was cautious to assume that the dynamic attacker – the only forward to score a goal this season for the Pigeons – would be available.
“If my idea is to play with Mitriță and Mitriță tells me he is very, very tired then I have to play with another player,” Torrent said. “When players come back from the national team, its not easy to play in the league. The focus is different. I know its not easy to change in one or two days. It is what it is.”
Torrent said that a majority of the internationals would be available for selection against the Reds including his starting keeper, Sean Johnson. Johnson arrived at the training facility on Wednesday after the regular session but in time to get a workout in with keeper coach, Rob Vartughian.
Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Keaton Parks, Juan Pablo Torres, Ismael Tajour-Shradi and Jonathan Lewis will also be options for Torrent on Friday.