Why Domenec Torrent Deserves More MLS Coach Of The Year Buzz
Not all that long ago, manager Domenec Torrent looked like he might not survive the season at New York City FC.
The Cityzens – who had improved considerably during the two-and-a-half year tenure of previous boss Patrick Vieira – opened 2019 by going six games without a league win. Boosted by the acquisition of Brazilian forward Hebert, Torrent steadied the ship and survived the storm. But his squad still remained hidden in mid-table obscurity for much of the summer, in part because of a backloaded schedule. On July 7, NYCFC and Portland became the last teams in the league to reach Game No. 17, the midpoint of their season, when some MLS sides had passed the milestone almost a month earlier.
But unlike Portland, City made the most of their games in hand over the summer. And now as the business end of 2019 approaches, Torrent’s achievements in the 57-year-old Spaniard’s first ever head coaching job at a first division side are coming into focus.
After demolishing defending MLS Cup Champion Atlanta United 4-1 on Wednesday night, NYCFC are a point away from locking up the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the club’s first Concacaf Champions League appearance. They own the league’s longest active unbeaten run at nine matches. And they’ve done it all without the likes of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela or Wayne Rooney.
Yet through it all, Torrent has taken a backseat to LAFC’s Bob Bradley, the San Jose Earthquakes’ Matias Almeyda, Minnesota United’s Adrian Heath and the Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin in the 2019 Coach of the Year discussion. Perhaps it’s a factor of Torrent’s understated nature, especially related to those others in the conversation, or of narratives that develop in the season long before they should.
Still, the Spaniard has checked every single box that would be expected of a coach who wins the award, and perhaps more so than a lot of followers of the league realize.
NYCFC are already five points improved from their 2018 total with two matches to play, and four points ahead of the club-record haul of 57 from the 2017 season. Their current +22 goal differential is eight better that their previous club-best of +14 from last season.
All the while, Torrent’s club have accomplished this while navigating the departure of the club’s all-time leading scorer David Villa, who scored 77 MLS goals in his four-year MLS career and won an MVP award in 2016.
Seeing Players Develop Under Your Tutelege
At Age 32, Maximiliano Moralez is in the midst of arguably his best professional season, becoming just the third player in MLS history to record 20 or more assists in a single season. Moralez’s 11 primary assists are the most he’s ever posted in a calendar year in any league.
Loan signing Keaton Parks has developed from a player once viewed as a defensive liability to a reliable box-to-box midfielder with above-average attributes going forward.
Forward Valentin Castellanos, age 20, has avoided the growing pains common for younger players arriving in MLS, scoring 11 goals in 29 appearances.
Performing Well Under Adverse Circumstances
Not only have Torrent’s men performed well, but they’ve done so when their limits are tested.
NYCFC have played 10 league matches on four days’ rest or fewer (not including any U.S. Open Cup schedule). Their record in those matches is 6-2-2. They’ve trailed at halftime in eight matches, but gone 2-3-3 in those games to salvage nine points. They’ve conceded first in 13 matches, but have gone 6-3-4 in those games to earn 22 points. Further, Torrent’s men have won seven games decided by one goal, while losing only three.
Returning Maximum Value For Team Payroll
In general, New York teams aren’t known for getting exceptional dollar-for-dollar value from their payroll. But this season, NYCFC is a major exception.
Using the figures for guaranteed player compensation released by the MLS Players Union this June, NYCFC have earned the second-best value return on their payroll in terms of the standings. With every MLS team through 32 games, the Cityzens have spent $165,926 per point earned, the second-lowest figure in the league behind the Philadelphia Union, who have paid $162,902 per point.
As for the teams of those other rumored candidates for MLS’ top coaching honor? Heath’s Minnesota United are third in MLS at $176,549 spent per point. Bradley’s LAFC are fifth at $193,562 and Almeyda’s San Jose are eighth at $208,214.
As for big-money stars, seven of the nine teams to have clinched a playoff berth have at least one player on the roster who makes more than City’s top earner. That’s Moralez, who earns exactly $2 million a season.