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Can Domènec Torrent Solve City’s Road Woes?

After two seasons of playing at a near elite level in road matches, City has recently struggled to find their form away from the Bronx. Can the new manager find the answer?

MLS: New York City FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday May 25, New York City FC fell to the Houston Dynamo in a 3-1 loss that felt deflating to say the least. And if this feeling felt similar, that’s because it was. City is now winless in their last 5 road matches (6 if you include the 4-0 shellacking in the Open Cup on June 6th). That alone is not necessarily a disturbing stat in of itself. Earning points, let alone winning matches, on the road can be extremely difficult in MLS, especially when you factor the amount of travel that is often involved. What’s alarming, however, is the manner in which these losses occurred.

Including the 4-0 loss to New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup, that’s now 18 goals allowed in their last 6 road matches, an average of 3 goals allowed per match. For any team — but especially a club like City which is seen as a contender for MLS Cup this season — leaking goals at such an alarming clip is simply not acceptable. And it is certainly not what City fans have come to expect from the club since Patrick Vieira had been in charge. Over his first two seasons managing NYCFC, the club had been one of the strongest road performers in MLS.

This season, things have changed. One could call it regression to the mean. One could blame it on injuries (Maxime Chanot, David Villa, and now Yangel Herrera have missed time across some or all of these road matches). Whatever the case may have been, the results are still the same: NYCFC are no longer dominant on the road. However, there has been significant changes to the club over the World Cup break. As we are all well aware, Patrick Vieira has moved on in his coaching career and has returned home to coach OCG Nice in France. City Football Group, being the global network that it is, has moved forward and tabbed Domènec Torrent as the new manager of New York City FC. Torrent served more a decade as Pep Guardiola’s assistant coach, being a part of many championship teams through the years as they made their made various stops across Europe. Now Domè takes his chance to sit in the driver’s seat with a club situated to still contend in MLS.

For what it’s worth, Torrent had an excellent debut as City won their recent home match versus Toronto FC to the score of 2-1. While many of the same tenets of Vieira — and City Football Group in general — were still evident in the club, you could also see the differences (albeit slight for now) between the two managers. Bobby Warshaw broke this down very well in his piece at mlssoccer.com. In his piece, he highlighted some key changes such as the using of Ebenezer Ofori as a single pivot in the midfield, while pushing forward both Maxi Moralez and Alexander Ring. Torrent also made the change of keeping the wingers, in this case Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jesus Medina, wide instead of having them cut in and create overlaps with the fullbacks, something Vieira was very fond of. Subtle changes, but in the end they led to a victory against a Toronto side that is struggling to find its form this season.

Now, Torrent faces a new challenge — making the necessary tweaks to get NYCFC back to their winning ways on the road.

This Saturday, Torrent manages his first road game against the Chicago Fire. The Fire come into this weekend’s match going undefeated in the month of June, winning or earning a draw in their last 6 matches (3-0-3). Torrent will have his work cut out for him facing a team that’s played better of late and looking to push their way back into the playoff picture, sitting 1 point out of sixth place, currently occupied by the Philadelphia Union.

Earning 3 points in Chicago could go a long way in getting New York City supporters to start believing that “Domè” is the right man to lead NYCFC to success this season and beyond.