Intensity the focus as Torrent rallies slumping NYCFC for Red Bulls clash

ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — When New York City FC last played the New York Red Bulls, Dome Torrent tweaked the game plan for his first derby encounter. He changed the formation slightly, but more importantly emphasized the need for high intensity for 90 minutes.

That was a must, given the opponent and the stage, and they did just that.

Taking the Red Bulls’ own high-tempo pressing game to them, NYCFC brought the combativeness, won individual duels and came away with a deserved three points on July 8.

However, over the course of the last few games, that 90-minute mentality has been lacking. Torrent has lamented the club’s poor performances after halftime, a trend amplified in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

That has left the frustrated Spanish coach searching for answers. 

“I don’t know. I repeat, it’s my job to find the solution,” Torrent said after training Monday. “Maybe they’re tired in the last three games, maybe not. Remember we have problems when we play away. Maybe our field is smaller than other pitches. But I don’t know if it’s the reason why we lose our intensity.”

Fullback Ben Sweat cited a collective lethargy about the team late in the season, and now they’re dealing with injuries to key players. It’s a far cry from when Torrent took over for Patrick Vieira in early June.

“It’s no excuse, but recently we’ve dropped our intensity and energy overall for a complete game,” Sweat said. “When Dome first arrived, those six or seven matches, we were going so hard and crazy and energized for 90 minutes and I think we’ve dropped off the last three matches.”

Central defender Sebastien Ibeagha said the players need to look to each other for answers, not rely on their coach to do so.

“I think it’s a drop in intensity and we just have to look at each other when we’re on the field and kind of figure it out and push through it,” he said. “It’s on us, it’s not on Dome, its not anyone else. We just have to push each other and get through those situations.”

In many ways, the third and final regular-season meeting with the Red Bulls, the Heineken Rivalry Week curtain-raiser on Wednesday (7 pm ET | FS1 – Full TV & streaming info), could be seen as the perfect tonic for the blue side of New York to break out of their doldrums.

They face their rivals again, a team just one point ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings, and they return to Yankee Stadium, where they are still undefeated this season — the last MLS team with that distinction.

“We’ve been inconsistent for a few matches now,” Sweat said. “We’re finally back at home and it’s against Red Bulls, so I think it’s all the things that are going to bring the high intensity, high energy for us. But we need to find a way to bring that high energy and high intensity every game, whether it’s home or away.”

Despite the team’s recent slump, NYCFC sit just four points behind Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United. On Monday, Torrent clarified earlier statements about the importance of the regular season and said the Shield is still a goal.

But the ultimate prize is MLS Cup. 

“You can ask our supporters if they prefer to win [MLS Cup] or the regular season? Of course, if you try to win MLS, you will try to finish in the top of the league. It’s our job,” Torrent said. “What I meant was the most important is for us to win MLS. After that we will try to win the regular season, of course. Why not? But remember, the most important thing is to win MLS.”