Why Dome Left
Former NYCFC manager Dome Torrent in an exclusive November 2019 interview with The Outfield went into detail about the conflicts that ultimately led to his departure.
He is a man of his word.
It’s a little after 7 p.m. on a brisk November night when I finally strolled to Bar Veloce, a couple of blocks south of Washington Square Park. A neon sign outside the wine bar welcomed me into the long narrow space that glowed with warm light bulbs. I surveyed the area — a wooden bar backed by a brick facade with racks of wine on each side. There are individual tables jutting out perpendicular from the wall. I snake my way through a packed Thursday night after-work crowd to a table in the back.
It’s Domènec Torrent, a man of his word.
As I approached the table, the recently departed New York City FC manager was dressed in his customary all-black attire. It’s the typical chic-and-neat Torrent in conversation with members of The Outfield. It’s at this table, with The Outfield’s Christopher Jee, the mastermind behind the months-long courting of Torrent. John Muller, a tactical board in hand, and NYCFC Tactics would follow shortly. It’s there where The Outfield talked with Torrent for three hours over red wine about the ins-and-outs of his one-and-a-half-year tenure at the helm of NYCFC where The Outfield was able to find the answers to what everyone wanted to know including his tactical approach and why he decided to leave NYCFC.
How this meeting came about started when Torrent himself sent Jee a rogue follow on Twitter. This started a fanatical courtship, one fantasized for months between The Outfield’s staff on Slack, where we dreamed of hitting up one of New York City’s jazz clubs with the beloved manager complete with a tactical board and bottles of Catalan red wine flowing.
Jee sent Torrent a direct message and propositioned for an interview. Torrent replied and said it wasn’t a good idea during the season to talk, but graciously proposed perhaps speaking after the season was over. It was hope, something that seemed too good to be true considering multiple attempts to interview Torrent through NYCFC were shot down.
What happened since that rogue message was unexpected: NYCFC went on to have its best season in its five-year history and Torrent unexpectedly decided he no longer wanted to manage NYCFC, citing issues with transfer policy and feeling his job security was in question all season as NYCFC sent City Football Group spies early on when the team struggled. But what was even more unexpected was that Torrent agreed to sit down and let us into his world for one night.
Upon sitting down, Torrent wanted to talk about Major League Soccer. He made it very clear that he disagreed with criticism that he did not understand MLS or its quagmire of roster rules that make it difficult for foreign-born coaches to adapt. Torrent said it took him about six months to adjust to MLS in terms of understanding the league, its rules, and the opposition.
“I’m adapting to MLS,” he said. “I’m adapting to the wines too.”
After a half-season with NYCFC in 2018, Torrent was ready to manage NYCFC the way he intended in 2019 but issues remained about the striker position and how to fill the boots of David Villa -- who went from the club’s leading scorer and poster child to pariah before deciding to finish his career with Vissel Kobe in Japan and eventually launching Queensboro FC, the new USL team expected to starting play in 2022.
NYCFC’s inability to find Torrent a replacement striker forced the Catalan into using midfielder Maxi Moralez as a False 9, which Torrent conceded was not the best way to play Moralez.
“[Not] even for our team,” he said. “I remember before Orlando the players were asking me about the striker. ‘Where’s the striker, coach?’ I said to ask the other people.”
Torrent infamously pulled back the curtain after NYCFC’s frustrating 2-1 Eastern Conference quarter-finals loss to Toronto FC saying it took the club too long to find a replacement, which eventually became Heber, who didn’t make his debut until April 6th, a month into the MLS season.
“I said I liked [Heber],” Torrent said, his frustration visible around the table. “They didn’t ask me if he’s expensive.”
Torrent referred to a list, the same list where he revealed Heber was not the club’s top replacement choice, but rather the club’s ninth option. He said other options were not possible due to salary cap restrictions and simply because other players did not want to play in MLS.
“You must know, when I decided to sign Heber, it was [my decision], not the club’s,” Torrent said. “After 50 days, I said, ‘What happened with this player? What is the reason why he is not here?…. Oh.’ That happened at this time.”
For Torrent the boiling point that led to his decision to leave the club occurred in June, and not at the end of the 2019 season.
“Because it's not easy to play when you know they are ready in May to replace the head coach. And is the same coach that is a close friend to Claudio Reyna. Is the same coach that maybe [NYCFC] will have next year. I expect that. But to me it is not fair, even when you have no striker, and that happens in April, and this happens in May. “
Both NYCFC and Austin FC did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite the mid-season decision to leave, Torrent said the focus was still on winning the MLS Cup. “After the season, we will leave,” Torrent told his coaching staff. “But focus right now to win the next game. To win this game. The reason why - for our players and for our fans. Nothing else. “ Undeterred, Dome helped pilot NYCFC to the best season in club history, topped the 2019 Eastern Conference table, and clinched the team’s first CONCACAF Champions League berth.
The true tragedy of this story is that this was a Macbethian power struggle that had no winner. Days after the interview with Dome, Claudio Reyna left NYCFC to become sporting director at Austin FC. Giovanni van Bronckhorst chose Guangzhou R&F in China over a Reyna-less NYCFC, but only lasted a single season.
Despite confirming his interest in staying in MLS during the interview, no MLS job materialized for Dome in 2020. He wound up with the Brazilian power Flamengo, but did not finish the season as the club struggled to deal with a COVID outbreak that infected Dome , and the stylistic renaissance needed to play the Pep Guardiola-inspired positional game and Dome was left the scapegoat.
As Dome Torrent gears up for another coaching gig in either England or Germany, NYCFC fans are left with dreams of what could have been if the Catalan was able to institute his positional revolution in New York.
Hopefully, we get to see it somewhere. ❧
Image: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks
Yeah, it’s a very long time ago. Stuff happens.