NEW YORK — With the New York Red Bulls finally getting into a rhythm and threatening for a late winner in Sunday’s NY Derby clash at Yankee Stadium, New York City FC coach Domè Torrent felt his team was in trouble, and made an important tactical switch.
As the Red Bulls pressed in the game’s final stages, Torrent changed tactics, switching to a 4-4-2 formation. When he brought on Jonathan Lewis for Rodney Wallace in the 76th minute, he gave the young, speedy American a clear game plan.
“’Jonathan, just move runs in behind because they make high pressing, they have a high line and you can find the spaces behind them,’” Torrent said postgame, explaining his message to the 21-year-old winger.
Lewis was pivotal in the match’s biggest moment, using the Red Bulls’ own weapon against them. He sprinted at Aaron Long as soon as Tyler Adams played a pass back to the center back, intercepting it and putting it on a platter for Maxi Moralez to hammer home the winner five minutes from full time.
“We lost twice to them early in the season. Playing in front of a packed house, I’m pretty sure our fans would not be happy if we lost the third one to them,” said Lewis, who made just his fifth MLS appearance of the year.
“That’s a big monkey off our back.”
Not only did they bounce back from last week’s difficult loss in Chicago – where they were harshly punished for their mistakes – but they also rebounded mentally from a pair of 4-0 defeats to the Red Bulls one month apart at Red Bull Arena earlier this year, one in league play and the other in the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“I’m very proud for them especially because they understand the best way, in my opinion, to play against this type of team, especially when we lost the last two games against this team, four-nil and four-nil,” Torrent said. “It’s not easy in your mind to think about that.”
The best way, according to Torrent, was to skip lines when the Red Bulls pressed, and play long balls from the back. Torrent figured this would help NYCFC avoid turning the ball over just outside of their 18-yard box, a bugaboo in previous derby meetings.
“Long balls avoid this kind of action, but first intention is to play outside — one, two, three passes and play outside, diagonal ball,” NYCFC’s new boss explained.
With David Villa and Jo Inge Berget out injured, Moralez played as a false No. 9 at times, occupying Red Bulls central defenders Long and Tim Parker. That would open up space in the midfield for Alex Ring and Ebenezer Ofori to exploit, Torrent believed.
“I prefer having the ball all the time and touching the ball 100 times a game," Ring said after the match. "It’s not always possible. They play a very intense, high-press game. And sometimes you just have to be direct to break that press because otherwise, you’re going to play yourself into trouble. I think we saw that the first two games. And I think we did that better than before, today.”
Torrent also praised his central-defense pair of Alex Callens and Maxime Chanot for negating Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored 11 goals in the first 10 league encounters against the Cityzens. The Red Bulls’ leading scorer was held without a shot on Sunday and had just 28 touches on the ball, the fewest of any starter.
“I think they controlled this player perfect,” Torrent said.