ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — Dome Torrent was pleased with clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and wouldn’t trade away the chance to play one fewer game and to have homefield advantage until MLS Cup in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
But the caveat is that New York City FC will go 18 days between a Decision Day presented by AT&T victory over the Philadelphia Union and their Eastern Conference Semifinal game against either Toronto FC or D.C. United.
And that the NYCFC coach doesn’t quite like.
It breaks up a team’s rhythm and, with the change in the playoff format this year to knockout games in each round, being stale could prove costly.
So Torrent devised a somewhat unique plan and delivered it to sporting director Claudio Reyna and NYCFC CEO Brad Sims.
NYCFC will play the Fire in a scrimmage Thursday at SeatGeek Stadium. He believes it will give his players a chance to shake off some of that rust and only be six days removed from a first playoff game.
The first preference for Torrent would have been to stay home, but he also stressed the importance of playing the game in a stadium to give the scrimmage a bigger feel.
“I prefer to play [in] New York, but I prefer to play in the stadium, not in the facilities, because it’s not real here. It’s different in the stadium,” Torrent said after training Tuesday. “When you travel, you have focus again, ‘oh, I’m playing again in MLS.’ When you play in the facilities, for me it's not the same. But if we had the possibility to play in the stadium, I don’t know, in Citi Field, it would be much better for sure.”
NYCFC, which will travel after training Wednesday, will approach the game like its another MLS game. Torrent said it will also allow some of his regulars a chance to get back into that all-important rhythm. He expects six to seven starters to play the full 90 minutes.
Both Parks, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, and Tajouri-Shradi, who was forced off after 30 minutes with a twisted ankle on Decision Day, trained fully Tuesday.
Heber, who suffered discomfort in his calf on a sprint late in pregame warmups against the Union, worked on the side. But Torrent is optimistic the Brazilian forward will be fit enough to compete next Wednesday.
“Heber is day-to-day because muscle injuries are day-to-day. You never know what will happen in 7-10 days,” Torrent said. “But it’s good news because Heber, I think both [he and Tajouri-Shradi] will be ready to play the first game.”
Torrent said he was also hoping the team’s seven international call-ups would get their rhythm by playing with their national teams during this FIFA window.
“It’s not easy to manage 18 days [between games],” Torrent said on Monday. “For example, when [Ronald] Matarrita plays 90 minutes [for Costa Rica] it’s perfect for the rhythm. The same today if it’s possible Taty Castellanos plays [for the Argentine U-23s], because in the first game he didn’t play.”