Ronny Deila has always been intrigued by Major League Soccer.
The incoming New York City FC manager would watch games in Norway to keep track of his former players like Ola Kamara, Sam Johnson and Adama Diomande. And he would think, if the chance arose, he’d like to coach there sometime.
It’s why he jumped at the opportunity when contacted by NYCFC. The league, the ambitious club, the United States all proved too tempting to pass up.
“New York City Football Club is a club that is really big and [has] an opportunity to win something,” he said in a conference call with reporters Friday. “Of course, that’s a massive thing when you take a club, there’s very good players here, there’s good consistency.”
In NYCFC, Deila inherits one of the best and arguably the most complete roster in MLS, a team he said has largely played the same way tactically for the past four years and, by his estimation, returns 90 percent of a squad that played at least one year together. Not to mention, the group is coming off its most successful season to date.
“That’s a big, big asset for the team and for me because then you can build on what’s been there before,” he said. “It’s in the style of New York City to play from behind and create overloads, switch up play, crosses and get players between the lines. In one, its just to be even more clear, to get overloads from behind, to work with that.”
It’s the other side of the ball Deila believes that offers most room for improvement.
“In the defense, try to be more compact and try to be better in transition so when we lose the ball, especially in the last third of the pitch, that we are better in reaction and are compact in the center of the pitch so we can win the ball straight back again,” he said. “Defensively, the team was very, very good last year, but I think maybe conceded too much goals to take it to the next stage.”
The former Celtic boss has high expectations in his first season at NYCFC. The ultimate goal is to win the club’s first trophy, whether its MLS Cup or Concacaf Champions League, which Deila acknowledged, “there’s never been an American team winning before as I know.”
“The ambition of course is to win something,” Deila said. “That’s never happened in the club before and nothing will make me more happy if we can do that.”
Deila understands that’s easier said than done in a league he said is improving rapidly.
“The level is getting better and better,” Deila said. “I think the stadiums are getting better and better, everything is like feeling like something can be really really big in some years. The way MLS is now using money on players and getting good players in [is] developing the league a lot.”