By Michael Lewis
Only three days after earning its first point of the MLS season and taking a transcontinental flight from Vancouver, New York City players hardly will have enough time to stretch their legs and catch their collective breaths prior to their next challenge.
That will be against Comunicaciones FC of Guatemala in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals in East Hartford, Conn. at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
The game is listed as a home game for City because Yankee Stadium was deemed unusable for the competition by the confederation. Because it is a midweek night match, a full venue at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium is a longshot.
Head coach Ronny Deila admitted he hadn’t dived deeply into breaking down his foes, given the short period of time between games.
“I’ll have to use the whole today and tomorrow to to see more and to get full control,” he said during a Zoom call with the media on Monday. “My team has worked hard to know exactly what it is but they have had one day off now. I’ve been watching a little bit but need to use today to get really into the tactics and things like that. But in the end, it’s about ourselves. My biggest focus now is to get everybody ready physically or mentally to do the game and that we go out and execute in a good way.”
Comunicaciones FC showed much grit in its Round of 16 encounter with the Colorado Rapids in the MLS’s squads home leg two weeks ago, defeating the host side in the cold and snow. The Guatemalan side won the first leg at home, 1-0, but dropped the second match in Commerce City, Colo., 1-0, Feb. 22. Comunicaciones FC prevailed in penalty kicks, 4-3.
“Colorado is a tough place to go,” Deila said. “This is a quarterfinal Champions League game. You don’t get anything before here. It’s going to be a tough, tough game. Two tough games. And we have to play our best to get the results. We want and get to the semifinal. Everybody’s excited.”
Deila added that he was “very happy that we don’t go to Colorado [and] instead, go into Guatemala because it’s a Champions League and you don’t want to play teams that is in their own league.”
“But to play other countries and that’s why you play internationally,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience and two tough games with hopefully a good atmosphere and something to remember.”
The status of right back Tayvon Gray, who suffered a leg injury in Saturday’s scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps was unknown.
“It’s too early to say anything about that,” Deila said. “I don’t think isn’t a serious thing.”
It some ways, this week is a microcosm of the season as NYCFC plays in two competitions. On Sunday, the Cityzens will unveil the MLS Cup championship banner at their home opener at Yankee Stadium.
“We have good confidence in the in the team, belief, the spirit,” Deila said. “They fight every game. I think we deserved to have more than one point after these two [MLS] games. I have to look behind the results and try to improve the small things that that need to be done to get three points out of it.
“Tomorrow is a huge game again. I think we just love the moment right now. It’s like you go from game to game and every game was important. To be in that position is [good] because we made something great last year. And we really, really enjoy it.”