The pineapple started so pretty. But like any fruit left on the counter too long, this pineapple has rotted. New York City FC announced Domènec (Domè) Torrent’s hiring as manager back on June 11, 2018, following the departure of Patrick Vieira. Torrent, had managed at Spanish side Girona. More recently, he served as an assistant at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Domé had spent the past 11 seasons working with Manchester City manager and BFF, Pep Guardiola.
The love affair with Domé started hot and heavy. His tenure as coach of NYCFC began on June 24th versus Toronto FC with a 2-1 victory at home. Over the next month, NYCFC would win 5 of their next 6 games with victories against Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, Columbus Crew, and Orlando City. This despite the fact that Torrent lost striker, David Villa, in his first game as manager. NYCFC supporters praised the new coach and lauded his ability to change tactics depending on the opponent. In those six matches, we saw 5-4-1, 4-3-3, and 4-2-3-1 formations. This was in stark contrast to Vieira’s inflexible 4-3-3. Fans viewed Torrent as a tactical master.
Everything’s Coming up Pinecones
Villa’s return, while unrelated, marked the beginning of a poor stretch of games for NYCFC under Torrent. Following the win on August 12 versus short-handed Toronto, NYCFC finished the final ten regular season matches with a record of 2-5-3 (W-L-D). After the regular season finale & MLS Cup Knockout Round wins against the Philadelphia Union, NYCFC was bounced out of the MLS Playoffs by Atlanta United in the conference semifinals for a third straight year.
Despite the poor finish by the club, most fans remained hopeful that NYCFC could bounce back with a preseason under Torrent and with new players that could fit his preferred style of play. Players like new Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita, Juan Pablo Torres, and Keaton Parks were added during the offseason.
Rinse and Repeat
Results in 2019 have been similar to those of last year. The 0-1-4 has led fans to revolt in droves. NYCFC has struggled on offense, recording only 4 goals in 5 matches. They’re averaging less than a point per match (0.80). Players like Taty Castellanos and Alex Ring are playing in positions they are not familiar with. Others, like Keaton Parks, are stuck on the bench despite the fact that they were loaned to New York City in hopes of getting more playing time.
NYCFC also started the season without a striker despite David Villa leaving in November and Jo Inge Berget’s contract being terminated in January. Brazilian “striker”, Hèber Araujo dos Santos, was signed two weeks ago but it will take him time to acclimate to his new club and become match fit. Hèber played 27 minutes in his first match versus Montreal off the bench, and will likely play 40-45 minutes this weekend at Minnesota.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The numbers are ugly for Domè Torrent. With 24 regular season matches under his belt, his record is 8-8-8. That’s roughly 1.33 points per match. Take out that early 6 game stretch and it paints an even darker picture, 2-7-8, or 0.75 points per match. Keep in mind Jason Kreis, NYCFC’s first manager, lead the club to 1.06 points per match and he was dismissed following his first season. Following Kreis, Patrick Vieira coached NYCFC for 90 matches to a 1.58 points per match average. As the one year anniversary of Domè’s tenure approaches a decision will need to be made.
Torrent should be given 9 more matches to right the ship and get this club moving in one coherent direction. 9 matches are enough to incorporate Hèber into the team and put out his best XI. Between now and the 9th match on June 6th, NYCFC will play 3 home games and 6 away matches. All 3 home matches are winnable against Chicago, Orlando, and Cincinnati. NYCFC should take a minimum of 7 points from those matches. The 6 away matches are much more challenging. With games versus Minnesota (stadium opening), DC, Montreal, LA Galaxy, Chicago, and Columbus, NYCFC will be fortunate to get 4 points. However, 13 points in 10 matches would at least be an improvement on our current pace.
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Fans want #DomeOut like yesterday, but with few options currently available NYCFC may have to wait until the European leagues finish their seasons in the middle to end of May. If, after June 6th, Torrent still hasn’t turned things around, NYCFC leadership should send him on a one-way flight back to Manchester. The timing of his departure would be crucial. NYCFC has a 23-day break in MLS action for CONCACAF Gold Cup. Bringing in a new or interim coach following June 6th would give said coach time to work with players, institute their preferred tactics, and start afresh when NYCFC returns to the field on June 29th versus the Philadelphia Union.
If you’re a fan of MLS, you know that the season ain’t over until it’s over. Just look at the Seattle Sounders of 2017 and 2018. The Sounders started 2017 4-6-4. Just 16 points through their first 14 matches. They would eventually make it to the MLS Cup. Last year they started 3-8-3. Only 12 points in their first 14 matches. Again, they would qualify for the playoffs. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s still hope for NYCFC. Either Torrent turns this around and we make a run at the playoffs or Dome exits and we still have time to make make a run with a new coach. Changing a coach mid-season is never an easy decision, but NYCFC cannot allow this mediocrity to continue. The question of DomeIn or DomeOut may be answered soon enough.