NYCFC coach Ronny Deila earns high marks from players for "tactical brilliance"

NYCFC coach Ronny Deila looks on during CCL match at Red Bull Arena

HARRISON, N.J. — There’s only so much you can get from a phone call, but Alex Ring had a positive first impression when speaking with Ronny Deila for the first time just days after the Norwegian became the fourth head coach in New York City FC history.

“He called me pretty fast after he became coach and I had a good feeling after we spoke on the phone,” Ring said after NYCFC defeated AD San Carlos, 1-0, at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night. “After meeting him personally and training under him and now playing, I can say that it’s exactly what I expected.”

The NYCFC captain described Deila as “honest, hard working, but knows to have fun.” He’s also lauded Deila’s attention to detail when it comes to the team’s defensive structure.

“Obviously we have a lot of attacking talents and it’s about finding the right balance,” Ring said. “In years before, it was also good, but in the moments where it mattered most, we could have done better.”

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was late to NYCFC preseason after participating in Gregg Berhalter’s January US men’s national team camp. But he said Deila’s enthusiasm and “tactical brilliance” was a good compliment to a team that went largely unchanged after its most successful season to date.

“I think the guys have been really pleased so far,” Johnson said. “You can see it in the performance, guys will go out and fight to the end, and we give everything on the pitch for him and it's been it's been fantastic and we're looking forward to a good season with him.”

The goal for NYCFC, like any other MLS team, is to win silverware this season. There’s a belief because of all the returning talent, and Deila’s guidance, that is a good possibility.

But the players aren’t looking far into the future. The task, after advancing to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, is on the regular season opener at Columbus Crew SC Sunday (12:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) and then on another tough road match at Toronto FC and the CCL quarterfinal home clash against Tigres UANL.

“They are used to winning a lot of games. We need to improve in everything and be hungry to improve inside our style,” Deila said. “Of course, my biggest task is for the players to feel safe on the pitch so they know exactly what’s expected, that they feel they mean something, that they are important, everybody. And that they have fun. For me, that’s the three most important things.

“Then if you do that, the players go to the pitch every day to get better. And if we do that, we can achieve a lot of the things.”

Anton Tinnerholm said this preseason consisted of more meetings than ever before, but player input was something Deila sought as well.

“He asked what we’re thinking about, how we want to play and what we can do different,” Tinnerholm said. “We have a great togetherness in the group. We haven’t changed really much, but some details we changed and I think maybe it’s going to take some time. But these two games it's looking pretty good.”

Deila also proved Wednesday night how much he has his players’ back, shoving San Carlos defender Pablo Arboine for his late challenge on Gary Mackay-Steven. That sparked a brief melee in the technical area and earned Deila a booking.

But his players took notice too.

“I like the emotion,” a grinning Tinnerholm said.