Talles Magno and his NYCFC teammates can’t afford to have another struggling CCL match. (Abbie Parr-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
The last time we saw New York City FC on the soccer pitch, many players were pointing fingers at each other in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League semifinal last week.
Ronny Deila understands the situation, given what the team had gone through over 2 1/2 months. Yet, he felt the team will bounce back in the second leg of the series at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night and clinch a berth in the final.
After all, he better be optimistic. He is the head coach of the defending MLS Cup champions.
“I really believe that but when you put the team in a situation where you could stretch … with everything they’ve been through the last three months, then you can start to see frustration and you can start to see irritation,” Deila said during a Zoom media press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “You don’t have the same patience that you have before. That’s impossible to do something. We try really, really to keep the energy and keep focused on the right things.
“But to go two and a half months, waking up different hotels, eating, seeing each other day and night, training playing games as important all the time, I think whoever person you will meet that meet in that situation you will see a little bit frustration.”
Forward Taty Castellanos had a deja vu feeling from last season.
“The same thing happened last season,” he said. “There was a little bit of struggle to start off the season, but we rectified the ship and came together towards the end of the season for playoffs. The same thing happens in these kinds of cases playing these kind of games with a lot of expectation on us. We’re just looking forward to play the match coming together and getting a positive result.”
So was Deila.
With the team settled at home for a week, the head coach said that he has felt a different vibe.
“I really see a different mindset,” he said. “I see more energy, see more happiness on the pitch, off the pitch. That’s a fact. I really, really think that we have the quality to do it.”
That would be to post a victory. A 2-0 win would put NYCFC through, helped by its away goal in the opening leg. A 2-1 triumph would force extratime and perhaps penalty kicks. A 3-0 or 3-1 victory would boost the Cityzens into the final.
“We have to give everything but at the same time, what we were good at in the in the playoffs last year was to enjoy the moment and attack the situation,” Deila said.
Deila noted that NYCFC had won seven of 10 home games in 2021 by scoring two goals.
“We have been training, had a couple of days off being together our families. I can see another totally different expression of their faces and my own face as well,” he said. “Maybe not so handsome as when I was 19 but still better than I was a week ago.
“It’s about energy. It’s about belief. It’s about attacking the situation. And we have won many home games more than more than more than two goals. I really believe that we can do that tomorrow. So, it’s about being organized. It’s about being our front foot. It’s about believing and attacking the situation. We have a lot of quality to come with.”
Of course, there will be another team on the RBA field – the Sounders, who have a much longer winning tradition than NYCFC as a two-time former MLS Cup champion and Lamar Hunt U.S