OK, this is good.
One of New York City FC’s biggest problems since being taken over by manager Domé Torrent has been a lack of a consistent approach to games. Unlike previous manager Patrick Vieira, who utilized a meticulously micromanaged 4-3-3, Domé seems to have been much more of a tinkerer on a game-by-game basis. In some matchups, perhaps he was justified. In others, however, it has been at the cost of fluidity and a firm idea as to what to do next on the pitch.
This has changed recently.
Starting with their 3-3 draw game against Minnesota United on April 13, NYCFC have implemented a three-back system and haven’t looked back. The results since then? 7 out of a possible 9 points. And despite my criticisms of the narrow 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, I’m not going to argue the fact that this change has yielded positive results.
There are plenty of reasons as to why the three-back approach has been beneficial for the Boys in Blue. For one, it has allowed James Sands to shine in a middle center back role. Despite being sound in virtually all areas of his game, NYCFC’s first-ever Academy signing has one strength that stands above all: his defending. Composed and hard as nails, Sands has done bits for these past few weeks and seems to have benefited the most from this change.
Another huge reason as to why the full-time conversion to a three-back has payed dividends is that is has played to the strengths of wing-backs Ronald Matarrita and Anton Tinnerholm. Though defending has still been their first priority — making this formation somewhat of a five-back hybrid — playing as wide midfielders has allowed both Matarrita and Tinnerholm the freedom to attack at will. Having these extra numbers in the attack has allowed NYCFC to provide much more service into and around the 18, leading to six goals in their last three games.
One could also argue that this pivotal change in philosophy has led to a resurrection of sorts for the often maligned Taty Castellanos at the forward position. But that’s a conversation for another day.
With a packed three-game schedule and the imminence of player rotation of some sort, this week in particular has been the litmus test as to whether or not the three-back was the right decision moving forward. Because a system of this variety only works when every player, from the perennial starters to the reserves, buys into it wholesale.
And apparently, they have.
Earlier this afternoon, Glenn Crooks reported from NYCFC’s training ground in Orangeburg and said that despite the necessary lineup changes due to injuries to both Matarrita and Alexandru Mitrita, City’s shape will “remain the same.”
As someone who has been very critical of Torrent and his in-game tactics in the past, I am in full support of this.
One thing I always admired about Vieira as a manager was that his system was the system, and the team was built around that philosophy. For Torrent to finally be successful and be rid of the #DomeOut talk, he must do the same: buy into this style of play, or find someone who will.
NYCFC should look at tomorrow’s game against Orlando City as the ultimate test. After a busy three-game week and losing some pivotal players, a win should (and perhaps would) send a message to the league and fans alike: Domé & Co. are for real.
Don’t @ me.