Tony Rocha’s first start in a New York City FC uniform was at left central back in an unfamiliar three-back system introduced by then-head coach Dome Torrent at Minnesota United.
The results for Rocha were placed into the category of “learning experience” when he was pulled at halftime after an unorganized performance in the opening stanza of an eventual 3-3 draw.
Rocha did not play in the next three matches followed by a 22 minute reserve appearance at Montreal after midfielder Ebenezer Ofori was felled by injury.
After a solid performance against the Impact, the Texas native started in place of injured Ofori in the subsequent match – a 2-0 road win against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the L.A. Galaxy. He then played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw at Chicago ahead of a healthy Ofori.
It was the beginning of a happy relationship between Torrent and Rocha who signed a new contract with the club on Monday after his coach had mutually agreed to part ways two weeks earlier after leading NYCFC to its first Eastern Conference regular season title.
He will now have to convince another coaching staff of his value starting on Jan. 11.
“There were a lot of highs this past season so I can look back and say it was a successful year,” Rocha said in a club release. “But we deserved so much more. I’m excited to get started back up in the preseason and look forward to winning a trophy for NYCFC. This city and our fans deserve it.”
Rocha played in 17 matches with nine starting assignments playing both midfield and at the back. He figured in nine of the last 11 regular matches with five starts and an assist on Heber’s goal to open the scoring in a 3-1 win at Vancouver.
“Tony proved to be a valuable member of our team, playing multiple positions across the season and became an important part of our locker room,” new Sporting Director, David Lee said. “We’re excited for Tony to continue his development at NYCFC and delighted he’ll be with us moving forward.”
Rocha spent his first three seasons in Major League Soccer at Orlando City FC with nary a post-season berth. His was the widest smile after New York City had clinched their fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
“My first season at New York City FC was all that I expected and more,” Rocha said. “Changing teams is never easy.”
Nor is changing coaches in the midst of his most impressive nine months as a professional while earning his first caps with the Belize National Team.
Caldwell claimed in Waiver Draft
The New England Revolution selected New York City FC goalkeeper, Jeff Caldwell with the third overall pick in Monday’s MLS End-of-the-Year Waiver Draft.
The 23-year old Caldwell was taken 19th overall by NYCFC in the 2018 MLS Super Draft. A three-year starter at the University of Virginia, Caldwell made 28 appearances with USL side, Memphis 901 FC on a season-long loan.