It’s 1-0 at halftime. That’s the message Domènec Torrent has been transmitting to his players in the hours and days since the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. Atlanta United.
NYCFC travel down south aiming to reach the Conference finals for the first time in club history but to do it, they’ll have to end Atlanta’s ten-game home unbeaten streak.
Any kind of a win will at least force extratime at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Anton Tinnerholm believes that City can approach the game with freedom as a result.
“This game is different and special because we’re going after this game and we’ve got nothing to lose,” Tinnerholm told MLSSoccer.com. “We know we are 1-0 down and they have to defend a 1-0 lead. I think we have to turn it around and go after and play like we have nothing to lose. If the score is going to be tied [1-1] at the end of the game, they’re going to be scared.”
It's a delicately-balanced tie, with both Head Coaches preparing their teams for very different missions.
For NYCFC, it’s a case of leaving this second leg with no regrets, with everything left on the field in pursuit of the goals which would take them through.
“I think we have to look at ourselves,” fullback Anton Tinnerholm said. “We, as a team, have to perform at 100 percent. Every player has to look at themselves and every player has to reach the top that we can do. … If every single player can reach the high level we can do, then we’re going to make it. It’s simple like that.”
Tata Martino’s Atlanta broke up the first leg cannily and City were unable to get into their stride, with Maxi Moralez shackled by a high-pressing midfield.
This time, Dome Torrent has a couple of different plans which the squad have been working on in the week to counteract ways in which the hosts could approach the second leg.
“We had a plan in the first game against Atlanta, but we didn’t play well in that way,” Torrent reflected.
“I say to Maxi, when we have the ball you have to play wide because normally when they defend man-to-man, you have to go right and create the space.
“They defend with eight and attack with two. When they recover the ball, they play all the time long ball with [Josef] Martinez and [Miguel] Almiron,”
“We practice this week two or three different ways to play against them because sometimes they play with a 5-2-2-1, sometimes they play 5-3-2 and we have to be ready to play in different ways.”
As important as game management and tactics will be, it will also be a night for belief and strong mental fortitude.
Torrent added: “When I want to convince my players, I say look it’s not two years ago, it’s two weeks ago. It’s the same. You have to be focused to try to score.
“We don’t need to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-1, no we need to win.”
Kickoff at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is at 5.30pm ET and the game will be broadcasted live on ESPN or at NYCFC.com/Radio.