New York City FC coach Domenec Torrent is tired of watching his team play long balls.
While Torrent was happy with the team’s play in the first half of Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC, the Spaniard was frustrated with NYCFC’s inability to stick to his preferred tactics in the second half.
“Maybe we played one of the best first halves of the season and one of the worst second halves of the season. I’m not happy about that,” Torrent said. “That wasn’t New York City Football Club, that was another team.”
A disciple of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Torrent said he wants his teams to focus on pressing high up the pitch and playing short, quick passes out of the back. He said his halftime message included playing the same style, “but quicker” and with more one-touch passes instead of players taking multiple touches.
That’s not what he saw when his team came out in the second half against a Columbus side looking to get back in the game.
“The surprise was we played the same style we played in Atlanta — long balls,” Torrent said.
Desperately clearing the ball or looking for the big pass from your team's own end is an unnecessary risk, Torrent said, because the team no longer is in control. By playing out of the back, he wants his team to dictate what happens on the field, even if that means the occasional mistake leading to an easy goal for the opposition.
What Torrent doesn’t want is his team giving up on his game plan when other teams stop sitting back and start forcing the action themselves, especially come playoff time.
“I accept three short, one long, three short, one long, but not all the time long,” Torrent said. “But when that happens, that is taking a risk. When you don’t have the ball you take a risk, because you defend deep. I’m not used to working in that way, defend deep. When we defend deep, everybody knows we’re in trouble. My message is play the same style, play the same way, respect the position, play high pressing. And I saw in the first five minutes of the second half, we didn’t make high pressing, 3-against-3, the wingbacks would stay.”
While he wasn’t thrilled with his team’s strategy, Torrent was happy to get the three points and said he was pleased with the effort by the players.
A big part of the dominant first half was strong forward play by NYCFC’s fullbacks, Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita.
Despite having more defensive responsibility than usual in a four-man defense following an injury to center back James Sands, Tinnerholm and Matarrita were exceptional for NYCFC early on, excelling high up the pitch as City looked to move the ball through the outside.
“I felt like both me and Mata had a little bit higher positions in the first half and really made life difficult for their wingers, they had to defend more than attack, so they were tired when they attacked,” Tinnerholm said. “It turned around in the second half when we were tired from attacking, so we had to defend all the time.”
While neither played a part in the only goal of the evening, both were crucial to the build-up play as NYCFC dominated possession in the first half, getting forward in the attack and tracking back well on defense.
“We’re comfortable with both playing four in the back or five in the back,” Tinnerholm said. “As I said, it wasn’t the best game today, but in the end we got the three points. We’ll see it’s going to be in the future if we’re going to play with four or five.”