Under Domenec Torrent, NYCFC was a rather ordinary club, which cannot sit well with City Football Group. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
One thing is certain at New York City FC this winter: Changes will be made.
There better be.
The team and head coach Domenec Torrent must make some hard decisions in the coming days or weeks, and it all starts with whether Torrent returns in 2019.
There are two questions hanging for us:
Does Torrent want to come back and does City Football Group, which operates and manages the Manchester City empire, including NYCFC, want him back?
After this year’s disappointing second half of the season, you have to wonder.
If Torrent does return, it would not be surprising if there are plenty of changes with the team’s personnel. The team that Torrent inherited from the departed Patrick Vieira was not his team. They are good players, but they obviously did not fit into the system he wanted to deploy.
Like any coach, he wants to make the team with players that follow his coaching philosophy, not his predecessors.
Usually when there is a mid-season change of coaches, it is because the team has a lousy record or not playing up to potential.
When Vieira left to direct Nice in French Ligue 1 in June, NYCFC owned a decent 8-3-4 mark with 28 points over 15 games Torrent, a long-time lieutenant to Pep Guardiola, most recently at ManCity, seemed to be the perfect replacement.
At first, it appeared to be a seamless transition.
Then some injuries hit.
Then came some inconsistent play.
Then came a lot of inconsistent play.
The came some underachieving results.
During Torrent’s 19-game tenure, City accumulated the same amount of points with a rather ordinary 8-7-4 record. Moreover, it was the abysmal way NYCFC finished the season that was more alarming. Down the regular season stretch after winning its fourth consecutive game July 26, a 3-0 win over ahem, mighty, Orlando City SC, the team went 3-6-4, which did not give many area soccer observers and inspired look toward the playoffs.
Including the three postseason matches, City has endured its worst stretch of matches — 4-8-4 since the Jason Kreis reign of error during the 2015 season. And in case you were wondering, City was outscored during that stretch, 26-20. Not exactly numbers an optimistic can put a proper spin on.
Once one of the top Major League Soccer road sides, City struggled to a 4-9-4 away mark from the confines of Yankee Stadium. NYCFC was an impressive 12-1-4 at home during the regular season but many observers saw some pock marks and that the team was not as dominant at the old ballpark as in the past over the last two months.
If Torrent doesn’t return, a new coach will need to be hired and he will want to bring in his own players.
This team doesn’t necessarily need a major overhaul, but it would not be surprising if several regulars, including those in attacking roles, are traded or given their release.
Other question that also need to be answered:
Will David Villa come back? Does he want to come back? Will he take a much smaller salary than the $5.6 million he earned this past season? I would be surprised if the team wants to pay an aging striker who had shown vulnerabilities (he missed 11 games due to injuries) that season more than $2 million, let alone $1 million.
Still, the Spanish international led the team with 14 goals.
All and good, but what direction does the team want to take?
Speaking of contracts, Torrent signed through the 2020 season, but as we all know contracts can be broken or renegotiated or players — and even coaches with CFG — can be transferred with the organization.
So, does NYCFC’s late-season struggles make Torrent a bad coach?
No, not at all.
Just look at his track record, whether he was running the show or being Guardiola’s first lieutenant and you can see a history of success.
But it is not easy coming into a team in midstream, when nothing seems to be broken. So why fix it?
If the team was losing, there might have been some major changes and perhaps a high-profile acquisition.
These fixes now can be made during the offseason.
It will be interesting to see what he can accomplish with his own players.
The question is whether he will get an opportunity.