NYCFC were dominant in their CCL Round of 16 series, blowing past Costa Rican side Santos de Guapiles 6-0 on aggregate. The league season, on the other hand, has posed tougher sledding, with head coach Ronny Deila's group winless through two matches and getting shut out in matches against the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Despite that mixed bag, Deila feels his team is responding well to the early-season hurdle ahead of Tuesday's CCL quarterfinals opener against Guatemalan outfit Comunicaciones FC at the University of Connecticut's Rentschler Field (8 pm ET | FS1, TUDN).
"I think we're in a very good place," Deila said on his Monday video call. "It's impossible to say that you don't have challenges with traveling like we have done, there's no other countries in the world that have that kind of traveling. But I think we've adapted very well to it, we have a really good time together all the time, we have good performances all the time. We have lost one game in 16 games or something if you take the preseason matches as well, so we have good confidence in the team. The belief and the spirit of the team, we see the fight every game.
"I think we deserved more than one point after these two games, but I have to look behind the results and try to improve the small things that need to be done to get three points," he added. "Tomorrow is a huge game again – I think we just love the moment right now. You go game to game and every game is important. To be in that position because we did something great last year, we really, really enjoy it."
NYCFC will face a Comunicaciones side that's one of the most successful and popular clubs in Guatemala. They'll also be riding high after their Round of 16 passage, knocking out the Colorado Rapids in penalty kicks after a dramatic second leg that saw them play with 10 men for much of the match in unfamiliar snowy conditions at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"It is [impressive]. Colorado is a tough place to go," Deila said. "So, again, this is the quarterfinals of Champions League, you don't get anything for free here. It's going to be a tough, tough game, two tough games. We have to play at our best to get the result we want and get to the semifinals. I think everybody's excited and really looking forward to the game. We know what we're playing for, so we use every moment now to relax, enjoy and prepare and then we take out everything tomorrow night."
With a semifinal berth in the continental tournament on the line, Deila hopes his players will simply enjoy the moment and novel experience of pursuing a FIFA Club World Cup spot. On their side of the bracket, the semifinal opponent will be either Seattle Sounders FC or Club Leon, with Leg 2 scheduled for March 15 in Central America.
"I'm actually very happy that we don't have to go to Colorado instead of Guatemala because, again, it's the Champions League, and you don't want to play teams that are in your own league," Deila said. "You want to play other countries, that's why you play international. So, it's going to be a great experience and a two tough games and hopefully a good atmosphere and something to remember."