Torrent says David Villa like to miss 1-2 games, but touts NYCFC depth

BRONX, N.Y. – The start of Domenec Torrent’s first game as New York City FC coach was less than ideal with his first substitution to replace an injured David Villa in the 28th minute Sunday against Toronto FC

“It’s bad news for us because he’s a key man for our team. He has a lot of experience, especially in these kind of games,” Torrent said after the match. “It’s not good news, but we have fantastic players. I think we have a talented team and I think quickly how is the best way to win the game without David. It’s not easy for us because he’s the reference in our offensive team, but football is something like that.”

Villa suffered a right knee injury that Torrent believes will likely sideline the NYCFC captain for one or two games. 

Torrent brought on Jesus Medina, who played wide in the three-man frontline and moved Jo Inge Berget centrally. The bearded Norwegian has been lauded by his teammates for his work off the ball and the space he creates, but criticized by fans for his inability to find the back of the net. 

Against Toronto, he put in that work and also scored both second half goals as NYCFC rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Toronto FC for the first time since 2015. 

“We have to play a little quicker,” Torrent said was his message in the locker room at halftime. “Sometimes in the first [half], we passed the ball and nothing happened. Everybody knows we have a player like Jo, he’s able to play like a striker, sometimes we play quick, long ball, set the ball and attack and attack quickly. It’s the best way.”

Berget showed two sides of his attacking ability to score his first two goals since netting his first MLS goal in a 4-0 rout of Real Salt Lake on April 11. 

“It felt good,” Berget said. “It was one of those days when it finally bounced my way.”

His 51st-minute equalizer looked like a Villa goal, a cheeky backheel that megged Nick Hagglund and beat Alex Bono from the edge of the six-yard box. 

But Berget said his second goal, when he sprints as soon as Maxi Moralez received the ball from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and put his first-time attempt inside the far post, is more representative of him as a player.

“The second one felt better... That’s kind of what I’m about, I run and I make the run,” Berget said. “Maxi has been giving me those balls all year long and this one I managed to get to the back of the net.”

Central defender Sebastian Ibeagha expects the brace to boost Berget’s confidence and is the just reward for the effort he puts in game after game. 

“He’s been doing well since he got here,” Ibeagha said of Berget. “He makes really good runs and works really hard off the ball and I think a lot of people so for him to be rewarded with two goals it’s big and I think that’s going to push him for the rest of the season.”