SEATTLE – At the halfway point of their Concacaf Champions League semifinal series against Seattle Sounders FC, New York City FC find themselves with their backs against the wall following a 3-1 defeat at Lumen Field on Wednesday.
The deficit creates a challenge for the defending MLS Cup champions ahead of next week's second leg at Red Bull Arena. But as head coach Ronny Deila pointed out during his post-match press conference in Seattle, it's also not an insurmountable deficit.
NYCFC pocketed a potentially crucial road goal courtesy of a 27th-minute finish from Thiago Andrade, meaning that a clean sheet and multiple goals in Leg 2 would see the Cityzens flip the script and advance.
"We come home, we need to win 2-0 and we have done that many times before," Deila said. "I'm positive. I know we can do better than we did today. At the same time, we know how good we are when we are at home. Nothing is over now."
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle Sounders FC vs. New York City FC | April 07, 2022
Deila also said he feels as though his team played Seattle more straight-up than the final scoreline might indicate, which gives him belief that such a turnaround can manifest in the return leg.
"I think in 80 percent of the game, we had good control – 80, 90 percent," Deila said. "There were some key moments in the game that we were not close enough, especially on the left side and we get those crosses against us. Then we were not good enough to be tight inside the box. They are deadly when they get opportunities."
The visitors were close to escaping with a more manageable 2-1 scoreline, but conceded a third when NYCFC defender Thiago Martins was whistled for a penalty kick for a foul on Seattle's Raul Ruidiaz following Video Review's closer examination. That gave Sounders playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro a look from the spot, which he converted past Sean Johnson.
"We can do better in that situation, stop their crosses," Deila said. "We can deal with the cross in a better way as well. But what's done is done now and we have to look forward to Wednesday."
Ahead of the second leg, the status of star NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez is also in question, as the dynamic Argentine was held out of Wednesday's contest with what Deila relayed was a bruised rib.
The 35-year-old remains one of the league's preeminent playmakers, with his availability for Leg 2 becoming one of the big storylines to monitor before MLS's CCL final representative is decided. Either Liga MX's Cruz Azul or Pumas UNAM will await the winner.
"Of course Maxi is an important player for us, but he had no chance to play in this game because of his ribs," Deila said. "He has bruised his rib and was not capable to play."