Still hammering away at his side to be true to themselves, Dome Torrent hopes his New York City FC squad avoids a third consecutive road loss Saturday night when they face last-place FC Cincinnati.
Being under the Manchester City umbrella, Torrent has been tasked with making NYCFC (10-5-8) a team that builds play out of the back while also maintaining possession, an ethos that starts with the parent club and Torrent's former boss Pep Guardiola. Most times, the Bronx Blues adhere to that style and often get results. But there have been stretches where NYCFC will play Route One soccer and thump long balls forward, resulting in a loss of shape when they lose possession.
That is what took place Sunday in Atlanta, when NYCFC absorbed a 2-1 loss to the reigning MLS Cup champion and squandered a chance to climb into second in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Torrent's side slipped to fourth - seven points behind front-running Philadelphia and only five ahead of Montreal for the seventh and final playoff spot - though they do have three matches in hand.
"I say many times, maybe the people don't believe me, 'If you play long balls, if you play faster, how fast the ball goes the faster the ball comes back,'" Torrent said post-match. "That's the reason why I wanted to take control, and you have to take risks - absolutely, and you can make mistakes. ... But they have to take the ball and pass the ball and play short, because we played the last two months that way.
"I don't know the reason why in the first half, we played every single ball long, long, long. That is the reason why when you lose the ball, they recover the ball and the space is so, so big."
Heber gave NYCFC a chance for a point with a goal in the 81st minute, his team-high 10th and seventh in his last eight matches. Maxi Moralez notched his 14th assist on the goal, leaving him one behind LAFC's Carlos Vela for the MLS lead.
New York City FC has just one win in their last six road matches (1-3-2) after claiming 11 points in their first six (3-1-2). The Bronx Blues have also shipped 11 goals in their last six road games after a stretch of three straight shutouts.
FC Cincinnati (5-17-3) is likely to finish its inaugural season in last place as it enters nine points behind Columbus for 11th place in the East. The Royals, though, showed out in grand fashion for the first MLS-level "Hell is Real" derby against the Crew last Saturday, playing their in-state rivals to a 2-2 draw on the road.
Darren Mattocks and Emmanuel Ledesma scored seven minutes apart in the first half to stake FCC to a 2-0 lead, but they could not sustain that level throughout the second half, which forced keeper Przemyslaw Tyton into action with a pair of close-range saves in stoppage time to preserve the point.
"I made some good saves today, which allowed us to stay in the game for some tough moments," Tyton told the club's official website. "I'm happy I could help the team. I saved those balls, but all the team worked hard from the beginning of the game. We showed from the first minute that we came here to get points."
The draw also marked the debut of left back Andrew Gutman, who was signed on loan from Celtic. His presence allowed Mathieu Deplagne to return to his customary right back role, something he had only done twice previously since Greg Garza suffered a calf injury in mid-May.
NYCFC ran riot in the first matchup this season, scoring three goals in the first 29 minutes and winning 5-2. Heber recorded a brace on either side of halftime and Moralez added a goal and two assists.