New York City FC will try to build on a stellar stretch when they face struggling 2015 expansion rival Orlando City on Thursday night at Orlando City Stadium.
NYCFC (12-4-4, 40 points), who trail Eastern Conference leading Atlanta United by four points in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield but have two games in hand, have enjoyed a 12-day break since winning three games — all on shutouts by goalie Sean Johnson — over a seven-day span, capped by a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on July 12.
If that weren’t enough to bring a smile to new head coach Domenec Torrent’s face, his old boss and team, Pep Guardiola and reigning Premier League champion Manchester City, stopped by to work out with the club earlier this week at the Etihad City Football Academy in Orangeburg, N.Y., prior to their International Champions Cup match with Liverpool on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium.
Torrent, who took over head-coaching duties at NYCFC on June 11 when Patrick Vieira left to take a head coaching job with Ligue 1 club Nice, was an assistant for Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City, where they won 24 trophies together.
“He’s going to do well because he’s a smart guy, he understands really well the game,” Guardiola said of Torrent. “So far, they played five games — four victories, one defeat. It’s not easy to come in the middle of the season to the team and in five games, win four. It’s not easy.”
Torrent’s biggest obstacle may be trying to turn around NYCFC’s road fortunes. The club is 0-4-2 in its past six games away from Yankee Stadium with the last win coming at San Jose, 2-1, on March 31.
Ninth-place Orlando City (7-12-1, 22 points), which trails the New England Revolution by six points in the battle for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, comes in off a controversial 3-2 loss at Columbus on Saturday. The Lions, who snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over defending MLS Cup winner Toronto FC a week earlier, lost in stoppage time on a goal by Wil Trapp just four minutes after Gyasi Zardes tied it with a controversial penalty kick.
The Professional Referee Organization later admitted there was an error by referee Silviu Petrescu in awarding a penalty after forward Patrick Mullins fell to the ground under minimal pressure by right back RJ Allen. Assistant referee Jon Freemon also was cited for failing to properly use video replay in the situation.
“It is just really, really disappointing for the players because the players didn’t deserve that tonight, they really didn’t,” Lions coach James O’Connor said afterward.
O’Connor said his players must put the tough defeat behind them and get ready for an NYCFC squad that hasn’t allowed a goal since a 3-2 setback at Chicago on June 30.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure we’re prepared,” O’Connor told MLSsoccer.com. “(NYCFC) are having a fantastic season, very strong team.”
NYCFC also could get three forwards back from injury: David Villa (knee) and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (hamstring), both of whom have scored eight goals, and Joe Inge Berget (quad), who has four goals. All three returned to training this week and are listed as questionable for the contest.
—Field Level Media