Ronny Deila: “If we want to have it in our hands, we need to win the next game.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Only one game into the MLS Is Back Tournament and already New York City FC is fighting for its life to reach the knockout rounds.

That’s what happens when you lose the opening round of a three-game group stage, which NYCFC did in a 1-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. Thursday.

Suddenly, NYCFC’s next game – against Inter Miami CF Monday at 9 a.m. – becomes a must-win match – because another loss probably will doom the team’s chances of moving on.

“We’ve started with a bad result and you know how it is in tournaments like this, you want a point from the first one and now we didn’t get it,” right back Anton Tinnerholm told reporters via a media conference call. “I think the next game is going to be crucial for us.”

Indeed.

Tinnerholm did not get any argument from head coach Ronny Deila.

“If we want to have it in our hands, we need to win the next game,” he said. “If we draw, then it’s not in our own hands, but it’s still a possibility. We of course are going into it wanting to win and going for three points in the next game.”

For the fourth consecutive match, City went down via a 1-0 result. That included three MLS matches and one Concacaf Champions League defeat to Tigres, a home contest in the first leg.

“It’s frustrating,” Deila said. “I think today we had quite a bit more chances than our opponent, but we don’t score and they get the chance and put it in. We’re not effective enough in what we’re doing. I’m a little bit sad for the hard work the players and everybody put in that we didn’t get any points today.”

Philly goalkeeper Andre Blake, a Jamaican international who has forged his reputation as a superior shot saver, did just that. He made a pair of vital late-game stops to keep NYCFC off the scoreboard.

“We’ve been training really, really hard, a lot of running and I think we looked strong out there today. We have to work a little bit the last third maybe,” Tinnerholm said. “Of course, it’s frustrating to not score the goals.”

Star midfielder Maxi Moralez was taken off in the 76th minute after feeling some discomfort in his quad. “Hopefully that’s not too big, but he needed to go off,” Deila said.

Inter Miami is coming off a 1-0 loss to Orlando City SC in the tournament opener on Wednesday night, so that Florida side will be fighting for its life.

“They’re going to want to repeat their performance last night,” center back James Sands said. “It’s much more important for us so we have to come out with energy and we really have to go for it. There’s no holding back at this point. It is a must win and we need the three points.”