What NYCFC's future looks like as Ronny Deila joins Standard Liege

Reports became reality Monday morning when New York City FC announced Ronny Deila, their MLS Cup 2021-winning head coach, has departed midway through the 2022 season to become the manager for Standard Liege in Belgium’s top flight.

Now, does the Norweigan’s return to Europe – with Nick Cushing taking over on an interim basis after being Deila’s assistant – spell trouble for the Cityzens? And should fans be worried about how NYCFC are now looking to appoint their fifth full-time manager since joining the league in 2015 as an expansion side?

Not quite, as the Extratime crew discussed in their latest episode, pointing to organizational consistency and success.

“When we generally see the successful franchises in history, we've seen coaches stay for a long time,” Calen Carr said. “Look at Seattle, look at Toronto for that period of time. And then when we've seen them change a lot, it's really like Atlanta, where that turnover really hasn't resulted in continuing that same sort of model of success.

“Whereas NYCFC have consistently been able to stay at or near the top of the Eastern Conference and then finally, I think through Deila, get over the jump to win MLS Cup.”

NYCFC have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in six straight seasons, highlighted by their trophy-raising victory over the Portland Timbers last December on penalty kicks. That form carried into the spring as they reached the Concacaf Champions League semifinals, only stopped by Seattle, historic winners over Liga MX’s Pumas.

Now, Cushing’s mandate is to keep the good times rolling at a club that’s atop the Eastern Conference standings, second in the Supporters’ Shield standings (behind LAFC) and brought an eight-game unbeaten streak into the June international break.

How Matt Doyle sees it, that means getting the most out of NYCFC’s talented group of youngsters in the short-term and long run.

“Ronny Deila's always going to be remembered as the coach who won NYCFC their first trophy, but his long-term impact was he did a better job than the guys who came before him at developing young players,” Doyle said. “James Sands, Taty Castellanos, we've seen Talles Magno has taken a jump this year. Keaton Parks was not a written-in-pen starter before Ronny Deila.

“ … For what this league is and for what NYCFC clearly are given the amount that they've invested in their homegrown pipeline, but especially given the amount that they're investing in guys like Talles Magno and Gabi Perreira and Thiago Andrade, the next coach, whether it's Nick Cushing, if he's going to get the job full-time, he has to be really good at that. Being good at developing talent is more important for the NYCFC coach than being a tactician. I'm not sure that's the case in most places in MLS, but it definitely is in the Bronx.”

NYCFC’s track record with managers is strong in recent years, too. Patrick Vieria, who led the club from 2016 to midway through the 2018 campaign, now steers Crystal Palace in England’s Premier League. And Domènec Torrent, Viera’s successor until his departure after the 2019 season, now leads Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Lig.

It’s perhaps a sign MLS coaches are becoming in higher demand around the world, and NYCFC can export not just players.

“Those are pretty good jobs and those are pretty good jumps,” Andrew Wiebe noted about NYCFC’s ex-coaches. “If you're a manager around the world or a manager within MLS, you've got to be looking at those and saying, 'I would like to be there. That's not a stepping stone just for players. It's a stepping stone for managers as well.'”

Deila, 46, famously led Scotland’s Celtic FC before coming stateside. He also guided Vålerenga and Strømsgodset in his home country, perhaps always looking to return closer to home.

That gravity met the league calendars in imperfect ways, David Gass noted. It’s also how NYCFC received a reported low-seven figure amount from Standard Liege for Deila to depart ahead of the 2022-23 Belgian campaign, exiting his contract early.

“It's unfortunate the way the seasons line up that this couldn't happen in the offseason,” Gass said. “Ideally he wins MLS Cup, that's his crowning achievement, he's accomplished something and then he goes to his next job and you sort of start anew. But because of the way the seasons line up, that's not going to happen.”

For more on NYCFC's future and other MLS topics, check out the full episode here.