New York City FC may have only won the second leg of their CCL Round of 16 tie against San Carlos by a 1-0 scoreline, but the performance showed significant improvement which head coach Ronny Deila can now build upon.
On Wednesday, New York City FC faced A.D. San Carlos in the second leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. Already going into the game with a 5-3 lead, the Pigeons continued their attacking prowess with a 1-0 win on the night and 6-3 victory on aggregate.
But despite scoring fewer goals in the second leg, the team looked more confined and confident, producing a more encouraging display for the season ahead.
Throughout the game, Ronny Deila’s squad continued to illustrate his dedication to possession-based, attacking football. While utilizing the 4-3-3 in the attack, a switch to the 4-5-1 on the defensive end was more evident in the second leg. The subtle change in shape helped the Pigeons regain control of the ball, allotting for 66% of the possession. This then allowed the team to attack at goal in a merciless fashion, resulting in 13 shots.
They may have only scored one goal, Alexander Callens turning Alexandru Mitriță’s corner home, but San Carlos only remained in the game thanks to some last-ditch defending and several excellent saves from Patrick Pemberton. In fact, despite the scoreline, New York City FC’s performance improved in the second leg, especially defensively.
In the first leg, they leaked three goals, committed countless errors, and were disorganized throughout. But in this game, the backline was more tightly structured, there were fewer errors and disorder, and players mended their ball recovery issues, obtaining the ball back in a speedier fashion.
Moreover, Deila’s desire to dominate possession acted as a defense mechanism. This limited San Carlos’ attacking opportunities, especially in the first half where NYCFC had 72% possession.
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The Pigeons often lost the ball high up the pitch and then worked relentlessly to recover it. They suffocated San Carlos with a tremendous high press, limiting the Costa Rican side to seven shots as compared to 21 in the first leg.
Despite improvement, there were moments when NYCFC’s defensive woes tried to bite them. In the tenth minute, Jorman Aguilar flew through the defense and attempted a shot on goal. But overall, this was an excellent defensive showing that provided the foundation for offensive pressure and control. After the match, Deila linked these two elements, defensive stability and overall control:
"“To keep a clean sheet was also important. And also to stay controlled for 90 minutes, that’s going to be important when we meet even better opponents.”"
They may have only won the second leg by the single goal, but it was a much-improved display. And if New York City FC continue to command matches as they did here, the 2020 campaign could be a very positive indeed. The Boys in Sky Blue are and they are ready to battle.