Hudson River Blue spoke with New York City FC manager Ronny Deila for an exclusive interview at the Etihad City Football Academy training facility in Rockland County, NY where members of the Senior Team were preparing for Saturday’s match against Northeast Conference rivals Toronto FC.
Note: This interview was edited for clarity.
Hudson River Blue: It’s been a rocky start to the year, and it seems that the on-field cohesion isn’t what it was last year.
Ronny Deila: What do you mean?
In terms of the chemistry, and how the team is playing on the field.
I don’t know if I agree with that. There are some new pieces in the team, and I think if you’re going into the first games of the year you’re going to have some moments. A good player will always take a little bit of time to click with everything. But I feel we—against Philadelphia we were having the ball 72% of the game. It was more about how we opened up in the last third, and that we win the ball in good situations. We can make them unbalanced also, not only “play, play, play.”
I think Keaton has been out for a long time, and he needs time to get back to where he has been. He’s training now consistently, but it was a big operation. I think that Alfredo plays well in the midfield, Maxi has been outstanding so far this season, Talles has been good. The center backs have Martins coming in. Santi is a little bit more on the right. So it’s not a disconnection. I think the system is so clear that there’s no change, but we need to play quicker.
And, we have been through a crazy, crazy travel. Playing all the time. We don’t train, we just play and travel.
It is very difficult to see what is things we should do better, and what is actually fatigue. It’s an accumulation of so many things at the same time.
If you put a squad in a military camp for six weeks, some of them are going to crack. It’s what we’ve been through. We’ve been traveling so much, we’ve been all over the place. You have to get ready, you have a six-hour flight, and you have to prepare for important games all the time. You’re never home. I’ve seen my family ten, twelve days in the last three months.
It’s very difficult to see what is what. But what I know is you don’t have the sharpness. Hopefully, we get out 10% more of the sharpness in the next game I think we will see the linking we had before.
HRB: Tell me more about the scheduling. Have you ever experienced anything like this?
RD: Never in my life. Of course in Celtic it was unbelievable because we played every three days, but we travel two hours in a bus. We were home all the time.
Now we have been ten, fifteen places. It has been an unbelievable experience but at the same time, we’re talking six-hour plane trips. In Celtic we did that one time, we went to Azerbaijan one time in the Champions League. It’s hard when you do that. This is three times more. I’ve never been in a situation like this. So many hotels, so many nights away, so much traveling in a plane.
But you know, it’s special. We are very, very lucky to have come to this situation. It’s because we’ve done something well.
HRB: Sporting director David Lee is very calm and measured when he brings in new players. There’s never a rush of signings before the start of the season, but that means you need to bring in new players a few weeks in, or a few months in. Does that complicate the start of the season?
RD: David is the best, obviously. It’s about getting the price, and what teams want to sell. It’s about getting everything arranged, and now with COVID everything takes extra time, it takes another two, three weeks. So it’s been a more difficult experience, but it doesn’t make it harder to get them straight into things. You have to do it while they are playing games, and at the same time you have to get the result. It’s not ideal of course, but it’s better than not getting new players If I have to choose, yes, everybody wants them the first of January so that we can start working in the preseason, but to get them in the middle is better than not getting them at all.
It takes time to adapt to the style of play, the culture, the tempo, the intensity of the league. It’s physical. They’re not use to that. South American players are more technical, the leagues are slower, but there’s the quality of course. It’s different for them.
Also to move to a new city takes some time to adapt to.
HRB: It’s the human things you need to address.
RD: Ah, it’s this. It takes time. That’s how to be a coach today, you have to do that too.
HRB: Speaking of new singings, when will we see Gabriel Pereira out on the field?
RD: I think you’ll see him on Saturday. He was playing games with Corinthians, and that’s a good football team. Hopefully, we can get Gabriel in the game.