Torrent, NYCFC to rely on veteran leadership for playoff run

The MLS playoffs are familiar territory for NYCFC. However, as City enters their third straight postseason run, the one-game knockout match is fairly new ground for the club and, overall, for head coach Domenec Torrent.

But single-game eliminations are nothing new for the first-year NYCFC head coach who, as an assistant, has won numerous major European titles.

“It’s like a final,” Torrent explained at training on Monday. “When you play the knockout game, it’s like a final. You have one possibility. Nothing more.”

NYCFC’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday — along with a scoreless draw for D.C. and a 3-2 win by Columbus — set them up for a rematch in the Bronx Wednesday night, with the winner advancing into the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Torrent won’t only rely on his European experience, but also on his veterans who, a year ago, fell short of rallying back at home in their conference semifinal loss to the Columbus Crew. City came a goal shy of defeating Columbus, falling 4-3 on aggregate and crashing out of the playoffs in the semis for the second straight year.

“It’s a completely different year, different feel,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said Monday. “The mentality you have in the playoffs is the most important thing.”

“We have a lot of experienced players on the team,” he added. “I think [Torrent] has given us a lot of responsibility on the team, and we got to take it upon ourselves to do the job once he selects the starting eleven. It’s going to take everybody to win a championship.”

Of the players who were on the team last year, NYCFC will see a majority return, including Johnson, David Villa, Alex Ring, Maxi Moralez and Yangel Herrera. Torrent admits that they will be key to winning on Wednesday and later in the playoffs.

“It’s important because they know how important it is to keep the ball, have control in the game, and don’t lose control,” Torrent explained. “Because you can play better in the opening, but if you lose control in the first 10 minutes, they’ll kill you.”

After Sunday’s win, Villa told the media that NYCFC “need to forget” their past playoff woes.

“The soccer is about the present,” Villa said. “We are in the playoffs. We play Wednesday at home and we need to win.”