Ronny Deila: “We always have good teams here, but you’re never winning anything.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
That cliche goes something like this: It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Of course, any team wants a big push at the season the season to bring some momentum into the playoffs.
However, a slow start could mean chasing the season, which is something New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila doesn’t want to do.
City kicks off its 34-game regular season at D.C. United at Audi Field Saturday at 8 p.m.
“The feeling is that we have prepared a lot to get into the first game,” Deila said during a Thursday Zoom call with the media. “Sometimes you feel that the game is so important’ it’s like a cup final. At the same time, it is one out of 34 games so to have a good first [game] is important.
“We started bad last year. We lost five of the first six. The year before I don’t think we won in six games or something. I think a lot of draws. We don’t want to have that start again. We want to try to start winning at once. And if you can do that, we put ourselves in a good position.
“I think we are more prepared now than they were last year. We have to develop during the season. … We are at a good place now but what we do now is not good enough in October.”
It’s all about culture, Deila said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult for him to implement one in his first season as NYCFC coach in 2020. With the team training six weeks into the season opener, Deila feels a lot more comfortable with this squad.
Deila said that it takes “time to change culture.”
“It’s not about one day, it’s about the years,” he added. “We changed a lot for where we were last year to now. It’s about how your players train. The mentality we had in the beginning, especially last year was you make yourself ready to play and then you switch on when we come on the pitch.
“You have to develop. You have to have a mindset of growth. You can’t have complacency in the squad. The only way to get something, you have to start working. You have to train you have to prepare the mentality. We have it now. It’s just fantastic to be a coach now because people really want something. People wants to get better. [They’re] willing to sacrifice everything to be the best version of themselves.
Since the disastrous inaugural 2015 MLS season, NYCFC has had a winning record every year, reaching the postseason and sometimes battling for the Eastern Conference title. But the club has nothing to show for its efforts as it traditionally has been shown the door in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We always have good teams here, but you’re never winning anything,” Deila said. For me, it’s the way you train, the way you prepare the whole year. That’s going end up with trophies. I think we see we see a big difference in the mentality of the boys, the physical shape we are in now. It’s completely different from where we were last year. We can’t compare it.”