NYCFC on verge of CCL semifinals, but wary of Comunicaciones: "We have to keep calm"

After Leg 1 of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series against Guatemalan side Comunicaciones FC, New York City FC are on the doorstep of a semifinal berth in the continental tournament.

The defending MLS Cup champions are protecting a 3-1 aggregate lead for Tuesday's second leg at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City (8 pm ET | FS2, TUDN), powered by goals from Taty Castellanos, Maxi Moralez and Santiago Rodriguez last week. Now, head coach Ronny Deila said it's about finishing the job.

"You can feel the atmosphere in the group," Deila said in Monday's media availability. "It's easy to get moody and tired mentally and physically, be very quiet and little energy. I haven't seen anything about that in the team. I think every time we meet up again after a day off or something, we’re smiling, we're looking forward to play again, to train, to see new places.

"And it's no complaining, everybody’s enjoying. Of course it helps to win, it's important, but we have two games now before we can have a break and we're going to do everything we can to come out of that with two victories."

To reach this spot, the Cityzens beat Costa Rican outfit Santos de Guápiles – while Tuesday's match marks their seventh game in a month as the 2022 campaign really reaches another gear. They're carrying momentum, too, after a 4-1 win over fellow CCL participant CF Montréal last weekend in league play.

Still, Deila fully recognizes their two-goal cushion is far from insurmountable. Comunicaciones pulled back an all-important road goal in Leg 1, keeping them within striking distance at their home field, where the Colorado Rapids lost 1-0 in the Round of 16.

"I don't think it's easy to be complacent in this situation," Deila said. "We know this is a tough result. 2-0 we're out. So I think it's opposite. We have to keep calm. We have to focus on the right things, the match plan, our tasks, make a good performance because that's the only way to get the result we want. I think the group now knows those things. It’s not about thinking we are something or not. We saw on the weekend: We were 2-0 up, they get 2-1 and then suddenly we were under pressure and then we come back again."

Center back Alexander Callens noted his team must be wary of the danger posed by Comunicaciones, who have scored a league-leading 24 goals in Liga Nacional de Guatemala.

Much of that strong attack is centered around Ecuadorian forward and former Chicago Fire FC Designated Player Juan Luis Anangonó, who Callens highlighted as especially dangerous.

"Obviously the nine is very important to their attack. He is kind of the target man. He holds up the ball, controls the pace of the attacking side of the game," the Peruvian international said. "So, we're just going to play our game plan that we played last game, just have an eye on him, not give him too much space to mobilize. And also just be careful for the wingers because they bring a lot of pace to the game. So we'll wait and see what the game plan is that the coach sets forth and we'll look to get a good result tomorrow."

Should the Cityzens advance, they'd face the winner of the quarterfinal series between Seattle Sounders FC and Liga MX's Club León, with the Sounders holding a 3-0 aggregate lead after their home leg at Lumen Field.

That can't happen if they don't take care of business Tuesday, with Deila saying he feels confident that his battle-tested group will see out the series.

"We need to be prepared mentally and physically, have a clear plan and execute," Deila said. "You do that and you lose, you’ve done your best. You don’t do what you agreed to do and lose, it's not acceptable. We know that we do things right, we have a really good chance to go through and we have put ourselves in a good situation after the first half."