The defending MLS Cup champions saw their 2022 CCL run come to a close in Wednesday's second leg at Red Bull Arena, which ended in a 1-1 draw and 4-2 aggregate defeat as Seattle's Raul Ruidiaz and NYCFC's Santiago Rodriguez each scored a goal apiece.
Needing two goals to force a penalty-kick shootout after Rodriguez leveled in the 51st minute, NYCFC had multiple golden chances for a goal that would have made the stretch run interesting, only to be thwarted by a fantastic seven-save night from Sounders backstop Stefan Frei.
"We created enough to score at least three goals, but their goalkeeper was unbelievable today," NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said afterwards. "Again, losing is terrible. I feel sorry for everybody and the players as well, but if you're going to lose, this is the way to lose. We gave everything out there and that's what we have to keep on doing."
Having navigated a brutal early-season schedule that has seen the club log thousands of travel miles between their CCL and MLS matches, the Norwegian manager saw glimpses of the levels they reached during the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"I'm [really] proud of the players. I think they did everything except putting the ball in the net more. I talked to them before the game about showing intensity and energy that we know this team can do," Deila said. "And today, they were on fire. They were all over Seattle, which is a really, really good football team. It was a tough match.
"In the end, we were not good enough inside the boxes compared to them and that's why they are in the final and we are not. But we know what we can do in our best moments, we have seen it. And now this team, how they played today, is when we are playing the way with the energy we know we have. It's nice to see that back again."
During this CCL run, NYCFC advanced past Costa Rica's Santos de Guápiles in the Round of 16 before narrowly dispatching Guatemala's Comunicaciones in the quarterfinals. Then when facing another MLS powerhouse, they missed the chance to meet Liga MX's Pumas UNAM in this year's CCL Final.
Now, NYCFC turn back toward the league campaign. They've gone 1W-3L-1D thus far while juggling both competitions, and return to action Sunday when hosting Real Salt Lake at Yankee Stadium (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).
"I said to the players: This is the team I know," he said. "This is how we are when we're at our best. This is energy we have to come into every game. And now we have gone a lot of games without winning, we have to start to win football games again. If we put out this performance on Sunday, then we're going to play really, really well."