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The Curious Case of Ronny Deila

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City may have played their best game yet, but walked away with nothing to show for it

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

By now, most New York City FC fans (I would hope) have come to terms with Wednesday night’s result. This is soccer, if you don’t score, the opposition will.

Despite the result, City played a phenomenal game for the better part of 90 minutes. The pace of the game was intense and entertaining for both fans and neutrals alike. In the second half it was revealed that it was City setting up the tempo because Toronto FC looked utterly lost on the pitch. Yet it was Toronto who would be taking the three points.

Although this marks the end of City’s unbeaten streak, they often looked lethargic and uninspired during their run. Given the magnitude of this game, Deila knew he would have to change up the game plan.

Gary Mackay-Steven and Valentín Castellanos were both given starting roles; two players that usually come off the bench to inject some energy into their side late game. While both players aren’t exactly known for the their final-end product, Toronto simply could not cope with their energy. Castellanos was constantly wrestling for 50-50 balls while GMS would dribble at opposing fullbacks, lose the ball and then try again. It may not be what City fans are used to watching but it worked.

Yes I know, City still lost the game. The call for handball on Nicolás Acevedo was incredibly harsh, but Referee Joseph Dickerson could not be bothered to reason with VAR.

After the match, Deila said, “We are so close to being a really, really, really good football team, we just need to score some more goals.”

He’s not wrong. While it would be fair to accuse Deila’s team of not having a proper identity out on the pitch (yet), it is fair to say that he has made this team play as best as they possibly can without a proper goal scorer.

Toronto was always going to be a tough test for Deila and despite losing 1-0, he passed with flying colors. Toronto’s coach, Gregg Vanney could not come up with a solution to cope with City’s energy. No substitution or change in shape was going to save the game for him. Instead, Dickerson’s decision is what gifted his team the three points but that’s soccer sometimes.

Wednesday night was a potential preview of what the Eastern Conference playoffs may hold in store for NYCFC. So for the fans, I urge you to be supportive of Deila and company. A couple of games ago it was unfathomable to think City could play this well without star man, Maxi Moralez.

City are missing one piece of the jigsaw puzzle: a goal scorer. With Héber now sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL he picked up Wednesday night, Deila will have to overcome one last hurdle if he is to see his vision at City come into fruition.