NYCFC’s radical new coach is trying to build something big

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Domenec Torrent hasn’t touched his saxophone in seven years.

He would, if he could, but the New York City FC head coach is in a self-imposed exile. His time away from the saxophone stems from living in Munich, where he served for three years as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. He wanted to play, he loves to, so he thought his home was large enough that he wouldn’t bother anyone. But then his neighbors had a problem with it.

“In Munich, it’s impossible. … In Manchester, it was impossible,” Torrent said about playing his prized silver Suzuki alto saxophone. “I have it at my home in Girona.”

Torrent likely wouldn’t have the time for it in New York anyway.

Torrent, 56, spent the past 11 years as the “right-hand man” to Guardiola, a label he embraces as the former top assistant to world soccer’s best coach. Together, they’ve hopped around some of Europe’s most storied clubs: Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Those stops yielded 24 domestic and international club trophies, which makes it reasonable to think that dissecting and helping one of soccer’s brightest ever minds makes you the next best thing.

Not for Torrent — not yet.

“I am here [because of] Pep Guardiola,” Torrent told The Post through a thick Catalan accent. “That’s the reason why people recognize me and why people think about me as a good coach. … I was a head coach before Pep, [but] people think that you are maybe better than I am in the moment. I need to convince my players and our supports [that] we are able, me and my staff, that we can improve the team every single year.”

Torrent, who was hired in June to replace Patrick Vieira, has had a mix go through his first two months in The Bronx. NYCFC isn’t his first coaching gig — he helmed his hometown club Girona over a decade ago in Spain’s lower divisions.

TorrentLarry Marano

At first, MLS orientation looked effortless, winning five out of his first six matches. However, NYCFC have won once in their past seven games, a product of a much more difficult schedule and numerous injuries. And unlike the often stubborn Vieira, Torrent doesn’t hesitate to admit when he’s wrong.

Analytics point toward Torrent’s coaching being effective, but the actual production hasn’t matched it yet. For him to get everything right and to win an MLS Cup, he’s going to need a little more time to get things exactly the way he wants.

“Believe me, Pep is not magic and Dome is not magic,” he said. “Nobody is magic. You have time to change something if you want to create something special here.”

More than just jazz

Before getting to know what Torrent is trying to do at NYCFC, you should know he still is adjusting to life in the Big Apple.

Torrent — wearing sleek, thin-rimmed shades and a black skinny polo — takes it all in, like his first visit to the U.S. Open, where he was eager to watch tennis. He was bubbly and seemed interested in listening to everyone. He is getting ready to move from the Upper West Side to a TriBeCa penthouse, despite relocating from Manchester just two months ago. It isn’t his first choice — he wanted to live in the West Village but needed something bigger than an apartment.

Away from NYCFC’s training facility, his routine is pretty normal. Torrent is an avid runner who usually exercises for three hours a day. His route starts at Riverside Park and ends all the way down in Brooklyn. On other days, he’ll do a few laps around Central Park, which he says he completes in 90 minutes.

Like new residents, he’s hitting the famed spots. He recently made his first visit to the Strand to buy the Spanish version of Paul Auster’s latest book, “4321.”

“He’s very interesting,” Torrent said about Auster. “It’s about when his family arrives in New York. It’s good.”

Torrent said he loves New York City. He’s in love with the food the city has to offer. For now, Italian might be the best eats he’s had, but he likes going to Nusr-Et, Salt Bae’s steakhouse. Despite his saxophone hobby, Torrent also likes more than just jazz music, like rock-n-roll and country music, and he’s excited to take in the theater even if there’s a language barrier.

“It’s not easy for me because sometimes I don’t understand 100 percent of what is going on,” Torrent said through a smile.

If and when he gets time off, he wants to visit music clubs like Smalls Jazz and Terra Blues.

“New York City is an amazing city,” he said.

‘We need time’

Even with NYCFC’s recent skid, Torrent has been considered a more advanced tactical manager than Vieira, maybe too much by how he handles each game.

Through his first 13 matches, Torrent has shifted NYCFC in at least five different formations, according to his count. The 2-2 draw Aug. 4 against Vancouver is his best game, he said, because it was his team’s most complete performance and what he envisions for the future, despite blowing a lead after the 80th minute.

Critics have worried about the constant formational and tactical changes because coaches normally instill one philosophy and stick with it. Nevertheless, Torrent approaches those decisions on a game-by-game basis due to MLS uncertainty. It’s different, but he said he believes it’s the best way to go about things right now. It’s a completely different ideology compared to Vieira, who mostly stuck with his 4-3-3 formation and occasionally played out of a 3-5-2 formation.

TorrentAnthony J. Causi

Torrent says he watches the previous three to four games from each opponent and dissects the best practice for each individual game. For example, in the 1-1 draw against Red Bulls on Aug. 22, Torrent explained he decided to line up in a 3-5-2 formation because he knew Red Bulls like to press high. With two wingers sitting wide, Torrent said it allowed his team to play short and out wide if they found themselves in trouble by the press. This structure remained true even when NYCFC played with nine men for the last 20 minutes.

“I want to create the style, but maybe it’s better next year,” he said. “If you want to create a certain style, you need the right players to be able to play in the style. I am very happy — very, very happy, believe me — with my players because they fight until the last minute. … But for example, if I want to play with 4-3-3 [formation], I need two wingers.

“When I say wingers, I think about the players that are able to play in the sideline, not on the sideline. Like [Christian] Pulisic, he’s able to take the ball through dribbling and sometimes make one-vs.-one.”

Ideally, he envisions NYCFC playing more similarly to Guardiola than Vieira. Long-term, it’s a 4-3-3 formation with the wingers wide with plenty of ball possession, lots of passing, quick attacking and high press at all times.

Guardiola said in July that Torrent would do well because of his intelligence and preparation. Others, too, feel it’s just a matter of time.

“I need to create a style here,” he said. “That’s the reason why I am here [and] my staff is here as well. It’s not easy to do in two months with all the problems we’ve had.”

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