ATLANTA — Dome Torrent and New York City FC had a clear vision of what to expect at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday afternoon. However, an intangible prevented City from properly executing the plan to get a result against Atlanta United.
The Five Stripes defeated NYCFC 2-1, a scoreline that belied the dominance of the home side.
“I don’t like if the game is box-to-box all the time — we need to control a little bit of the game,” Torrent told Pro Soccer USA prior to the match. “It’s not easy because they play in the same system we use, three in the back. That means in some moments it’s almost man-man and you have to win the duals — it’s the most important thing.”
Atlanta gained control of the match from the outset with rapid close-downs and tight man-marking to win the duals and hector New York City into a direct, long ball attack that is not favored — nor instructed — in Torrent’s training sessions.
“In the first half, the build-up all the time was long ball, long ball, long ball,” Torrent said. “We practice a lot to play short. That is our style, to play short. We practice long balls to surprise them. It was for me a crazy, crazy game. It’s our problem when we play that way.”
City captain Alexander Ring agreed with Torrent’s assessment.
“Teams catch up on it and start playing man-to-man,” Ring said postgame. “We just have to find solutions because at the moment we are having problems with that [building the attack].”
It is the second match of three that left Torrent perplexed with his team’s inability to adhere to the game plan of building from the back, even against a high-pressing unit like Atlanta.
“The first one I need to convince is my keeper [Sean Johnson] and the second one is my center backs,” Torrent said. “Because it is impossible for Sean to play short if the center backs don’t stay in the right position to play. We have to take a risk. We played much better against the Galaxy and against D.C. and they played high pressing, too.”
In order to carry out those methods in a venue that attracts large, boisterous crowds, Torrent said the City players must harness an aspect of the game that supersedes tactics: mettle and resolve.
“What is the reason why you play different against Atlanta?” Torrent asked. “If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. You have to be brave in Atlanta. If you want to play here, you have to be brave. If you are scared here, forget about it. Stay in New York. You have to play. If you play all the time quickly, quickly and lose the ball every three seconds it’s impossible to win here.”
For Torrent, the hazard against the Five Stripes was to stray from the principles.
“You take a risk sometimes and people are confused about that,” Torrent said. “They think if you play short you take a risk. No, if you play long ball you take a risk [against Atlanta]. When they recover the ball they have quality and the spaces to play.”
Ring concurred that he and his teammates need a supplement of gumption as they approach future matches, starting at FC Cincinnati this Saturday.
“In the first 50 or 60 minutes we lacked basic things, most of all courage,” Ring said. “You can’t win games if you don’t play with your heart, with courage. If we want to be a top team we have to play better. It is that simple. There is a lot to think about after this game.”