NEW YORK — When you consider rivalry matches across the globe, the El Clasico contested between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the Manchester Derby between City and United are certain to be among everyone’s top picks.
New York City FC coach Domènec Torrent was in the technical area for many of those confrontations as the top assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and Manchester City. Consequently, he is comfortable preparing for his first Hudson River Derby, when New York City FC hosts the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
“Believe me, I am not nervous – I am an old man,” said the 55-year old Torrent. “I play enough derbies in Barcelona and Manchester, and I understand. These kind of games, there is a lot of passion.”
Torrent’s sage warning to his team is to situate their passion in a productive manner.
“If you want to live the derby with passion, it’s good, but be careful,” he said. “You have to control everything about the emotions. For me, it’s not a special game, but [for] the fans, I understand it’s a special game.”
Beyond the passion of this derby is the current form of the opponent. The Red Bulls surged past NYCFC and into second place in the Eastern Conference after a road win at BMO Field in Toronto, which was preceded by a 3-0 extinguishing of Western Conference leader FC Dallas.
Torrent evaluated the last five Red Bull matches.
“Right now, it’s my opinion, maybe the best team in MLS,” Torrent said of his upcoming opponent.
The challenge teams face against RBNY is relentless energy coupled with a high press that can lead to crucial turnovers – something the Red Bulls have used to outscore NYCFC 27-3 in eight victories.
“Here’s a secret for you,” Torrent said. “We are training 30 minutes every day about that, because it’s not easy to play against the Red Bulls. They are the team that plays with the most intensity in MLS.”
Torrent indicated he is familiar with the RBNY system from his days assisting Guardiola at FC Bayern, where FC Leipzig – one of the Red Bulls’ sister clubs – utilized similar tactics in the German Bundesliga.
“They play in the same way, 90 percent,” Torrent said. “They have high pressing and intensity in every, single ball – it’s the same thing that’s happening. It’s not news for me. Not just for Leipzig, even (Red Bull) Salzburg. We played a friendly game against Salzburg, and when I watch the last three or four games for New York, I said, ‘Wow – it’s the Red Bulls way.’”
The Red Bulls already have won two derby matches in 2018 – one in MLS, the other in the U.S. Open Cup — by the identical score of 4-0. NYCFC talisman David Villa, who is tied for the team lead with eight goals, remains doubtful for the match with a right knee injury.
“Step by step, it’s not easy to recover when the knee is not good,” Torrent said. “If he’s not ready 100 percent, he doesn’t play.”
Villa’s four goals in the series is second to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has a whopping 11 finishes against NYCFC.
Torrent says he still needs time to implement some of his methods after just six training sessions, but as he enters his third match for New York City, the theme will always be the same.
“It is very important for us to never forget that we play for our fans,” Torrent said. “When the feeling is [that] they are so proud for us, that means we won the game.”