HARRISON, N.J. — New York City FC coach Ronny Deila has no problem calling Liga MX powerhouses Tigres UANL the favorites to come out on top when the two clubs face off in the opening leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday (8 pm ET | FS2, TUDN) at Red Bull Arena.
Tigres have won four Liga MX titles in the last five years, although they have yet to make that dominance at home count when it comes to the Concacaf Champions League, losing in the final in three of the last four years. And Deila is happy for his NYCFC side to play the role of underdog.
“We have been looking forward to the game, it is a big game for us,” Deila said. “At the same time, it's everything to win it. Tigres is the favorites, but we know what we can do when we are at our best and we're going to do everything we can to be there tomorrow.”
While both teams were understandably keeping things close to the vest when it came to tactical analysis of their rival, Deila said he’s been impressed with Tigres’ strength on the wings and with big, powerful forwards, crosses into the box will need to be dealt with.
“Our bottom level has to be higher, and our top level is good,” Deila said. “So it's about our performance. And when you meet good teams, it’s about they punish you much more when you do stupid mistakes or easy mistakes, then they will score. So that's the big difference.”
As with NYCFC's round of 16 victory over AD San Carlos, Wednesday's game will be played at Red Bull Arena. NYCFC’s rental agreement means only the lower bowl of Red Bull Arena will be open, but, as of Tuesday morning, every ticket had been sold. When the hospitality allotment is added, NYCFC expect close to 10,000 fans Wednesday night.
And with only 600 tickets made available to Tigres fans, Red Bull Arena could provide more of a home-field advantage for NYCFC in the opening leg.
“It’s great to get the atmosphere into the game, its important,” Deila said. “I'm so happy that our fans show up and support us. It's going to be so important for us and we're just looking forward to get out tomorrow and play because I think it's going to be a great game, two good teams, good atmosphere and then we have everything we need to get a memorable night.”
Of course, with a sizable Mexican population in the New York-area, there’s a strong possibility Tigres will have an even larger road support. Following his team’s walkthrough Tuesday afternoon, Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti was impressed with RBA.
“I like the stadium, it speaks to the growth of MLS,” he said. “They used to play in big empty stadiums, NFL stadiums, but now they're playing in properly-fitted stadiums like it's grown. There won't be a problem to grow the game in the US. We played in LA with 100,000 people in the Rose Bowl. We've also played in smaller stadiums and we think this will be fine for us.”
NYCFC forward Taty Castellanos has had very different experiences at the stadium. In his time in MLS, he's heard the deafening roar from the red-clad home fans in heated Hudson River Derby matches, while he saw what it was like playing in front of a sparse home crowd against AD San Carlos.
Through both extremes, Castellanos said he and his teammates felt right at home in their surroundings, which could give NYCFC an edge on Wednesday night.
“We're comfortable with the stadium,” Castellanos said through a translator Tuesday morning at a Red Bull Arena press conference. “We know that our fans are great fans and they’re coming out. It’ll be a great game with the fans and the stadium is really nice and we feel comfortable, so good for tomorrow.”