New York City FC coach Dome Torrent managed 19 regular-season matches after his arrival in place of Patrick Vieira.
The Catalan repeatedly suggested his priority was to establish a process of team development to prepare for the postseason.
The method was painful at times. The Cityzens managed but two victories in 12 matches prior to their back-to-back wins against the Philadelphia Union in the regular-season finale and the knockout round of the MLS playoffs.
Central defender Maxime Chanot, in his third postseason with the club, said City is a more cohesive unit after some questionable form in recent weeks.
“I think this group, the coach and the club make ourselves ready for the playoff,” Chanot told Pro Soccer USA after Friday’s training session. “That’s why maybe you think there’s an improvement because we made ourselves ready for that. I’m sure you see it on the pitch. The target was the playoff and we are here now.”
The versatile Ronald Matarrita is also in his third season with the club. The Costa Rican suggested the single-elimination match against the Union on Wednesday may work in City’s favor.
“It gives us a lot of rhythm,” Matarrita said through a translator. “We feel much different than the last two years because we didn’t have to play the knockout round.”
NYCFC finished second in the Eastern Conference in each of the last two seasons.
Chanot said this year’s third place finish is not necessarily a predictor for advancement in the playoffs.
“I can say those last three seasons every time in the playoff the teams that do well most of the time its not doing well in the regular season,” Chanot said.
In 2016, the Seattle Sounders finished fourth in the Western Conference and won MLS Cup. While Toronto captured the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup in 2017, two teams forced to compete in the knockout phase – Columbus Crew SC and the Houston Dynamo – progressed to the Conference Finals.