Torrent debuts as NYCFC coach against Toronto FC
It's the dawn of a new era for New York City FC, which welcomes in new coach Domenec Torrent for their match against Toronto FC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
But it remains unclear if Torrent, who was an assistant coach under Pep Guardiola for 11 years, most recently at Manchester City, will be on the sideline or if he'll be sidelined in Spain as he awaits his visa.
Torrent has been in his native Spain in anticipation of his work permit, while holdover assistant coaches Javier Perez and Rob Vartughian ran the team's training sessions. NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said Torrent will start to place his stamp on the team when he arrives, although it's unclear if the longtime assistant coach has had an input into NYCFC's game-day tactics.
NYCFC officials, who say the permit should arrive any day now, didn't make Perez and Vartughian available to reporters on Thursday, citing a club policy that only head coaches speak to the media.
Despite the upheaval, NYCFC players say their own preparation hasn't changed.
"Our week is right now a typical work week for us," goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "We've been doing everything necessary as we have been earlier in the season. For us, not much has changed at all. Our preparation has been very good, I think."
NYCFC (8-3-4) will want to start a new era as strongly as it closed out Vieira's 2 1/2 years when it dominated Atlanta United but were unlucky to only emerge with a 1-1 draw on June 9 at Yankee Stadium.
The team's performance, arguably its best of the first half of the season, came with speculation swirling about Vieira's imminent departure.
"I think we've always stood up after a bad game or also with the rumors flying around concerning Pat or now with the new coach not arriving yet," midfielder Alex Ring said. "It shows how strong we are as a team. I'm sure in the long haul it's going to take us very far. It's up to us to step up to the plate and take care of business."
While NYCFC has been one of the top MLS teams in the first half of the season, currently in second place in the East, six points behind Atlanta with a game in hand, Toronto FC has struggled mightily after capturing MLS Cup in December.
The Reds are 10th of 11 teams in the East, but they are unbeaten in their last three games and are slowly inching closer to the playoff line.
"We need to make sure that we defend well as a group. They've got a lot of guys who can hurt you, they're a well-organized team and that's not going to change," Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said of NYCFC. "They have a lot of guys who are technically good and gifted and they'll move well off of each other.
"We'll have to manage space well, it's tight, and we've got to be smart about choosing moments when we can try to oppose a little higher, but also not just give away space and allow some of their good players time and space to do things."
Updated June 22, 2018