New NYCFC coach Torrent not yet in town, but business as usual for players

Sean Johnson - New York City FC - NYCFC - Pounces on a save

ORANGEBURG, N.Y. – Three days before New York City FC face Toronto FC (Sunday, 5 pm ET | TSN 4/5 - Full TV & Streaming) and the new head coach isn’t in town yet. 

Domenec Torrent, who replaced Patrick Vieira hours after the Frenchman was officially named the new coach at OGC Nice, is still in Spain awaiting his visa. NYCFC officials expect, or at least hope, the process ends any day now, and there’s a belief he’ll be on the bench at Yankee Stadium. 

In the meantime, holdover assistant coaches Javier Perez and Rob Vartughian are running training sessions and the feel amongst the group is one of business as usual despite the high profile midseason upheaval. 

“Our week is right now a typical work week for us,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said after training Thursday. “We’ve been doing everything necessary as we have been earlier in the season. For us, not much has changed at all. Our preparation has been very good I think.”

No one on NYCFC’s roster is more well versed in dealing with coaching changes than Alex Ring, who had five different coaches in four-and-a-half seasons at German side FC Kaiserslautern. The carousel started just three months after signing there in June 2013.

“It’s part of the business,” Ring said. “You have to be able to cope with it and Javi and Rob are doing a great job. It’s up to us players to pull through. We have to do it for the club, for ourselves because we deserve it the way we train, the way we play.”

Johnson and Ring are part of NYCFC’s internal leadership, which will be leaned upon during this transitional period.

“It’s the job of the more experienced players to drive the team through situations like this,” Ring said. “Of course, David [Villa], Maxi [Moralez], myself, Sean, guys who have been long enough around we know what to do and, of course, it’s a part we have to take responsibility now because the coach isn’t here yet. 

“We’ve seen everything with us this season. We’ve had a lot of adversity, but we’ve always come out swinging and that’s the quality of our team.”

Johnson alluded to NYCFC’s performance against Atlanta United before the World Cup break, arguably their best of the first half of the season, to show the strength of the team’s mentality. He said it's akin to any bit of adversity, from a stinging loss to a long-term injury. 

“Internal leadership is huge for us and to me that doesn’t change game in and game out, no matter who’s the manager,” Johnson said. “With Patrick, the guys who stepped up and led the group did a fantastic job and we’ve tried to carry that out throughout the entire season. No matter what’s popped up, what results we’ve had, we’ve always tried to keep the group even keel and leveled and focused on the task.”

As for how long it will take NYCFC to adjust to Torrent when he finally arrives, Ring said that’s up to the players. 

“He has vast experience of being Pep [Guardiola’s] No. 2 for a long time. He’s dealt only with big players so I think the squad is excited,” Ring said. “It’s a big chance for us experienced players and younger players to get better. We’re looking forward to it. We should take this olive branch and hopefully we’ll get better.”