New York City FC head coach Domenec Torrent likes to have control.
Whether it’s how his team plays on the field or how he supports his players off it, being at the reins is crucial to how the Spaniard operates.
“If you want to win something, you have to control everything,” Torrent said. “You have to control the opponent, you have to control your players, you have to control everything. If not, it’s impossible.”
Fortunately for Torrent, a hot stretch has the club controlling its own fate in the Eastern Conference with just six games left on its schedule. NYCFC sits in first with 53 points entering Wednesday’s match against Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium, putting the club two points clear of the Philadelphia Union with a game in hand and five points clear of defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United.
First place in the conference means more than just home-field advantage in the new MLS Cup playoff format as only one team in each conference is granted a first-round bye in the single-elimination bracket.
City controls the standings after five straight victories, but Torrent is happier with how his team is controlling the game on the field, responding to his frequent adjustments to find the best way forward in Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win over the New England Revolution.
“My feeling is much better with the team because for example we can change three or four times our systems, and maybe we will improve. That means it’s the right moment to change a little bit because I know how important it is for me to have control of the game,” Torrent said. “When the opponent has control of the game it is the right moment, I have to change the system to avoid them having the ball,.”
Torrent is feeling better about the team, but he doesn’t want his players to get too high after taking over first place Saturday. He said his staff doesn’t spend too much time reliving their successes, instead focusing on correcting mistakes and moving on.
“We spoke about when we conceded a goal or we concede some opportunities, the best way to defend for the next day, but even when we play well, I say ‘forget about it, the next opponent is Toronto and focus on Toronto, forget about what happened, it doesn’t matter right now,’” Torrent said. “I’m happy right now for the supporters especially because right now we are in the first position, but it’s not important, believe me. In the moment for me, for the players we say, ‘focus on the next game, the next opponent, and after that the next opponent.’”
Some things are out of Torrent's control.
NYCFC will be without attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez against Toronto due to accumulation of yellow cards, while central defenders Alex Callens and Maxime Chanot have not returned from international duty with Peru and Luxembourg, respectively.
“We have to be focused every single day. They have to rest well, they have to eat well, they have to be focused on the next opponent,” Torrent said. “Don’t relax, because it’s not the time to relax, we’ll have more time to relax in November.”