Nick Fiorino (@stretch_fio)
On Saturday, NYCFC travel to Minnesota looking to break their early season slump. Fans knew this season would be different without David Villa, but the front office seemingly did not. City were without a true centre forward for weeks, with Mitriță and Taty sharing time in the middle. While the boys in blue continue their objectively frustrating start to the year, City supporters continue to clamor for changes at the top.
Domè has been a disappointing hire for many. We all know the numbers: 4 wins in their last 21 matches, no goals in their last 200+ minutes, and an overall abysmal effort to penetrate into the final third. Last season under Patrick Vieira, City were undefeated at home, winning six of seven, outscoring opponents 19 to 3. Under Torrent, the fortress that was Yankee Stadium has turned into a sand castle.
Fans will remember the first month of Domè’s tenure. A mystical week of three home victories, three clean sheets, a victory over our cross-state rivals, and quite possibly Jonathan Lewis’ best week of his young career.
A pretty pineapple indeed.
Fans will also remember Domè’s estimation that he would need at least a month, and a transfer window to implement his preferred style. He turned to the club’s youth, something Vieira never did, and was rewarded early. This first group of matches as manager would prove to be the last remnants of the Patrick Vieira era in the Bronx. Torrent soon added Eloi Amagat and Valentin Castellanos to the team, and promised supporters something new on the pitch. City then went four in a row without a win at home. They finished the season losing five of six away from Yankee Stadium, eventually hobbling into the playoffs where they were soon eliminated, marking another year of what could have been.
So, if NYCFC lose this weekend and management does decide to sack Domè, what really would change? We would certainly see more of Keaton Parks in the sky blue; It would be hard to fathom a situation where he could play any less. We would see less of ‘Taty’, a Domè favorite, but that is likely to happen anyway with the arrival of Héber. A new manager would change our style of play? Certainly not drastically: the starting lineup would likely remain the same, and this team is built to play a certain way, whether we like it or not. All of this without asking, who replaces Torrent?
Other notable clubs have started the season poorly too. The Red Bulls and Atlanta United have both faced challenges to start the season in the East, and the Timbers have earned one point from five matches, holding a -10 goal differential in the West.
We are 5 games into a 34 game season. While Domè has been incredibly disappointing, City have a very strong roster, and it’s still very early. Here are the facts: At his best, Alexander Ring is as good a midfielder as there is in MLS, and he looks like a true offensive threat in year three. James Sands has exceeded all expectations. Minus the embarrassment in Toronto, the backline has looked steady. On their good days, Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita are incredibly active on both ends of the pitch. Sean Johnson has been a rock, racking up international caps along the way. Maxi, Héber, Mitriță, and ITS will all eventually take the pitch together, and when they do, this will be a very dangerous team with a very potent attack.
Torrent has not lived up to the hype, but disregarding months of planning after a few bad performances, without a solid replacement, and without a backup plan is the wrong decision. For now.
Onto Saturday, City will face a tough road test, another Stadium opener with frigid weather expected. History stands in their way, and the injury bug is striking at the wrong time. According to Torrent on Wednesday, Mitriță has an injury that may limit his effectiveness for months. Héber is still only ready for 40-45 minutes of gametime, and Maxi is only at “70-75 percent” health. City will also be without Alexander Callens.
NYCFC is in turmoil at the moment, but with other big clubs underperforming around them and only five games into a long season, there is time. While Saturday may produce more of the same from the Pigeons, a roster like this will be poised for an eventual turnaround. The only question is when.
Follow Nick Fiorino on Twitter at @stretch_fio and The Third Rail at @ThirdRailSC.
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