New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila has discussed his side's gap to the dominant New England Revolution at the top of the Eastern Conference as the second half of the 2021 Major League Soccer season commences.
NYCFC currently hold a two match advantage but they stand 12 points away from trumping the Revolution in the Eastern Conference. Deila admitted that the goal will be a slow comeback rather than a quick turnover.
“New England have been unbelievably good, they hardly lose," Deila told media. "They have a big gap to the others. It’s still the halfway point – there’s so many games left, we have to keep on going. I’d love to be under the radar until the last game then win at the end. That’d be the best thing, so I don’t think too much about if we’re under the radar or not."
New York City FC hasn’t lost a league game since July 7 against Montreal, maintaining momentum with the help of star forward Valentin Castellanos.
"I think we have respect," Deila continued. "We’re a good football team but we have to keep improving, we have a lot to work on still. The other teams are getting better, too. It’s about who improves the most the rest of the season. If you take away New England, [the standings] are very even. There’s a long way to go. We’re working better, we have a different confidence."
Deila’s side faces fifth place Philadelphia Union next in a match up that NYCFC are not taking lightly. The two last played each other in May, where the Cityzens defeated the Union 2-0 after a red card to Philadelphia opened up their path to the goal.
“A lot of things are more positive," Deila said. "Having said that, Philadelphia are a really tough opponent. Last time we played them, they got a red card very early, so that made the game easier for us. That won't happen this time, I don't think. They are one of the top teams.”
Deila explained the nature behind his choices, claiming the roster rotations are tailored to each match but maintain the same team energy despite the lineup.
“It depends what kind of team we are going to need, what kind of style we want to play, which players are tired or fresh. Injuries. There are 100 things that go into [a starting XI]," Deila said. "It’s difficult with the amount of games we have, but we’ve done very well to rotate the team and get results. We don’t have any other options, we’ll keep rotating. How much? We don’t know.
“I don’t think [rotating is] any problem – we can change how we want to play because we have so many intelligent players," Deila said. "It’s less about systems, it’s about principles. And the players know the principles so well.”