Ronny Deila: “We just need to keep people injury free. [That] is the most important thing.” (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
With its ninth win in its last 15 games and a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs already assured, don’t be surprised if New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila prays to the soccer gods for the health of his team.
He has had key players, particularly on the attacking side, having been in and out of the lineup due to a variety of injuries.
That includes striker Heber, who is lost for the season with a torn ACL.
That includes midfielder-forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who has not been medically cleared yet after he was quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test.
That includes Maxi Moralez, who has been hampered with hamstring and knee issue this MLS season.
Of course, not having Alexandru Mitrita, who has been loaned to a Saudi Arabian team, hasn’t help matters.
“We just need to keep people injury free. [That] is the most important thing,” Deila told reporters after NYCFC recorded a 1-0 win over Toronto FC in East Hartford, Conn. Wednesday night. We don’t have so many players right now. Keep everybody fit. That’s going to be the most important thing. And to just keep on with the same things.”
Today, City (10-8-3, 33 points) sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Columbus Crew SC (10-5-5, 35) and Orlando City SC (9-3-8, 35) in the race to finish in the top four. Columbus and Orlando City each have a game in hand on NYCFC. The top four squads will host a quarterfinal playoff match.
“We’re [won’t] find anything new now going into the playoffs,” Deila said. “It’s about getting confidence. Win games. Hopefully get among the four best. Now we have an opportunity to go past Orlando or Columbus…We’re two points behind both of them with two games left. It’s possible [to get top four].”
NYCFC, which has two matches remaining in the regular season, hosts the Red Bulls in the Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium Sunday night.
Defender Maxime Chanot has liked the team’s resilience in overcoming two difficult defeats.
“Right now I’m just happy with the win tonight,” he said. “I think we bounced back very well since we lost two games against New England and Columbus. It was important to bounce back first against Montreal and then against Toronto tonight.”
He admitted it took some time to figure out Deila’s system in an interrupted season due to the pandemic.
“It is not so easy to find the right way to play,” he said. “It took time to understand how Ronny wants us to do it. Since the MLS is Back Tournament, we’ve had a good conversation together. So now, just try to stay positive in the situation that we are one of the best teams since August. The main thing is to be fresh and learn from the experience from the past seasons when we’ve played playoff games.”