The season may have begun with four straight defeats but NYCFC coach Ronny Deila is now targeting a glorious end at MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
Deila's side held off a resilient Inter Miami performance to win 3-2 in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday to leave the team with just one defeat in their last nine matches and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We want to win, we want to play on the 12th of December. That's their goal," Deila, in his first year as NYCFC coach, said following Saturday's win. "That's possible. We have a strong team. We're hard to beat."
"We have a great team spirit as we showed today. We just need to keep on working, improving and get prepared for every game and we have to try to get as high as possible in the league. But it's been a tough season for us with a lot of things, we play more away games than the others, we had Columbus and Toronto in the beginning, It's tough. And we had a bad start, but we have bounced back and we are playing really really good now in over two months and that's something we just have to keep on doing."
NYCFC's only defeat since Aug. 20 came against a Toronto FC side that now sits level on top of the Supporters' Shield standings. But they were made to work for the win on Saturday against an Inter Miami side showing plenty of quality going forward with an attack spearheaded by Gonzalo Higuain. Twice Miami pulled level in a rollercoaster first half but two goals from Alexandru Mitrita and another from Anton Tinnerholm proved enough.
"These are the best victories, to get something when maybe you don't deserve it but at the same time deserve it because you've managed to suffer and keep the goal clean in the second half," Deila said. "So this I think is going to be massive for us, these three points when we look at the season at the end."
"Obviously we want to finish as high as possible to give ourselves a chance to go on and do something special," added goalkeeper Sean Johnson. "We put ourselves in a good position now, I think we're just gonna have to keep building on the performances.
"We've had a lot of different games, it gets a lot of different opponents and I think tonight we saw something a bit different where we have to battle through tough circumstances tough conditions," he continued. "But at the end of the day, it was about having each other's back then and I think we can really take this experience moving forward and couple that with the way we've been playing on the ball going back home now for two games, we have something added to us that we didn't have previously."
Those next two games will see NYCFC take on struggling D.C. United as well as New England Revolution before a run in to the end of the season that will see them take on the current top three in the East — Columbus Crew, Toronto FC and Orlando City — and a chance to show that their championship credentials are for real.
As Deila said, "Keep on playing, keep on winning, keep on fighting and we'll have a good chance to do something big this year."