New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila has urged his side to 'stay together' following their 1-0 defeat to rivals New York Red Bulls.
Having previously been riding high in the Eastern Conference, NYCFC have slumped into eighth position, below the playoff line, thanks to a run of just one win in their last nine games.
During that time, they've taken just one point from three games against the Red Bulls, who have now drawn level on points with their Hudson River derby rivals. Deila's side fell behind after just three minutes to a Cristian Casseres Jr strike on Sunday and were unable to muster a comeback.
NYCFC still have five regular-season games remaining to salvage their playoff hopes and Deila believes it's critical that his players pull together.
“First of all, you have to believe, it’s the most important thing. That everyone stays together, we know how good we can be when we are at our best," he told reporters.
"This was a very even game like it is when we play against Red Bulls, it’s a fight more so than it is a [game] and we have come out now after three times with only one point. That’s something we have to improve. It was inside the two 18-yard boxes but also to create more. Whoever plays Red Bulls, it’s very even, it’s one-zero, one-one all the time, and today was the same."
Sunday's defeat was a step backwards after a spirited 0-0 draw at home to Nashville, who are second in the East. Though he commended his players for sticking at it against the Red Bulls, Deila admitted his side need to fight 'even harder' if they're to jump back into the MLS Cup Playoff spots.
"I know our level when we are good and we saw it against Nashville," he added. "Today, we fought, we stayed together, we never gave up, we tried until the end, so I can’t say anything about attitude. Try to do the best job as possible but we need to fight even harder and believe, even more, work on details to get the small margins for us instead of against us.”
Asked whether or not making the playoffs is now a realistic possibility, centre-back Alexander Callens responded: “I think so, we have a good team, we are good players so these last five games we are going to play our hearts out, this isn’t over yet.”
Up next for NYCFC is a testing trip to in-form Atlanta United on Wednesday, with key clashes against the likes of DC United and Philadelphia Union still to come.