Fullbacks, unleashed: NYCFC laud Torrent's shift to 3-4-3 formation

ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — There was no lightbulb moment, not in film study, not in a coaches meeting.

For Dome Torrent, there was simply a realization that a change was needed when New York City FC failed to win their first five games of 2019.

So he instituted a 3-4-3 formation. It didn’t yield the desired result immediately, with the club drawing 3-3 with Minnesota United FC in their first match in the new shape. But since that April 13 game when Allianz Field opened, NYCFC have won three of their last four, conceding just once in that stretch.

“Maybe we have the right players to play this system. I repeat many times, the most important thing in soccer is the players,” Torrent said after training Tuesday. “If I want to play 4-3-3, we need maybe the right wingers and maybe you don’t have these kind of players, you have to change, especially when you don’t get results.”

The change in shape has generated wins, and thus confidence, in an NYCFC side who have quickly moved up the Eastern Conference table with their current run of form. They currently sit in fifth place ahead of their clash with the LA Galaxy Saturday (4 pm ET | ESPN, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) at Dignity Health Sports Park.

“It’s about the feeling when you play — they play more comfortable and it’s about the results,” Torrent said. “When the results are much better, everyone has confidence in the system.”

Indeed, the players have lauded the change, especially fullbacks Anton Tinnerholm and Ben Sweat, who have the green light, and the comfort, to push forward in attack with the understanding there’s more cover with three central defenders.

“I feel way more comfortable,” Sweat said. “I don’t have to hesitate to go forward because I know there’s three more behind me and there’s two holding mids behind me as well. That helps Anton and I for sure.”

Added Tinnerholm: “For me, it’s fun. When we’re attacking I’m a winger, and when I’m defending I’m a fullback. It’s a lot of running, but you have to use what you’re good at. I like that.”

While the wins have come following the shift in formation, Tinnerholm and Sweat bristled at the suggestion the club struggled early in the season. Sure, they didn’t win, but they only lost once.

“I don’t know, to be honest, if we struggled,” Tinnerholm said. “We lost one game in 10 games. For us, we just keep on going and with the formation we’re using now, everyone is very comfortable with that. Especially in the end of games, we’ve been a little more relaxed this year.”

Those thoughts, they believe, were a bit overstated, by fans and media alike.

“It’s easy to blow things up,” Sweat said. “Obviously we only had one loss and if you look at the big picture, it’s one loss. I think we have one of the best records in the league now after a few wins. We just have to keep this form going.”