As New York City FC stares down the final few weeks heading into the MLS Cup Playoffs, head coach Domènec Torrent is looking to recapture the magic that saw his club amass a 12-game unbeaten run earlier in the season.
You’d expect most coaches would be thrilled with a 4-1 scoreline on the road like the one NYCFC collected on Saturday against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.
“Not exactly, because I remember we play much better one month ago, but we are in the right way.” Torrent said after the win.
One of the things that can’t be manufactured though, is the budding relationship between the team’s top two scorers, Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, and MLS newcomer Héber.
The two each registered a brace on the evening and combined just before halftime to give the visitors a lead that they’d go on to pile higher in the second half.
Behind the scenes, they’ve been setting the stage for a performance like Saturday’s.
“We are close friends. We always are joking, always are together and sometimes we go to dinner. I think this relationship outside the pitch helps us on the pitch also.” Héber said.
“Together we talk about football, we talk about which position I like to play, also how I get the ball to him, what I like. So, I think this helps us.”
The time spent paid dividends on Saturday, and the play is starting to affect Torrent’s thinking.
“They play really well, both, because they have a special feeling to each other and its good news.” He said.
“Sometimes I need to play just one striker, but when you have two players that can score goals, 12 (goals) Heber, nine (goals) Taty, it’s better to play with them, it’s simply like that.”
In a wild half that saw the teams’ goalkeepers swap penalty saves, NYCFC failed to register a shot in the opening 20 minutes. Torrent’s decision to move Héber up would prove to highlight the compliment of attacking options at his disposal.
“The first half I played like a winger, I played where Miti (Alexandru Mitrita) played last game, in the second half we changed a little bit, I played close to the 18-yard box, we played with two strikers and I think this helped. I like to be close to the box.” Héber said.
The two-striker experiment is looking likely to take place after Saturday’s win. Torrent has ten more games before the playoffs, and NYCFC’s third-place status awards the space to allow
“The opening is very important. If you want to play with two strikers or one striker, but now when you have two strikers in top form, you have to play with them.”
Two of those ten games will be played in the next seven days. NYCFC heads to Columbus on Wednesday night before heading home to host the second round of the hotly contested Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium.