For New York City FC, the run at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando can most simply be described as inconsistent.
The Cityzens limped out of the gate, taking a 1-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union and find themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline against Orlando City SC. After eking out a narrow 1-0 victory over expansion side Inter Miami CF and needing some fortuitous outside results to get into the Round of 16, NYCFC finally looked like themselves again in a 3-1 demolition of Toronto FC. But they fell flat in their quarterfinal matchup with the Portland Timbers on Saturday that saw them take a 3-1 loss and end their tournament.
After Saturday's match, head coach Ronny Deila said he was disappointed with the defensive lapses that occurred against the Timbers, but that he's leaving Orlando with some encouraging signs that they'll be able to find more consistency going forward.
"I think we have improved during the tournament," Deila said. "I think we had some really good games. But today I think we weren't good at offensive marking enough and they got too many chances on the counterattacks. But I think we improved during the tournament and I'm sad we didn't get through to the next stage. But we have to just learn from it and work harder into the next game."
Highlights: NYCFC vs. Portland
For NYCFC, the goal will be getting things to look more like the Toronto win on a consistent basis, which they haven't yet been able to do in 2020. That match showed something close to the team everyone expected to see coming into the season, with the undeniable attacking quality on the roster shining through and midfielder Maxi Moralez, who had his minutes limited throughout the tournament as he dealt with calf and quad issues, showing his credentials as one of the league's most dynamic playmakers. Midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven said he feels as though the players are getting to the point where games like that can happen on a more frequent basis.
"I felt we've come on leaps and bounds as a team." Mackay-Steven said. "We've had good training, good games and the boys really know how the manager wants us to play now and I felt certainly, especially in the Toronto game, even the Miami game and even the Philadelphia game, there were signs we're doing what the manager wants us to do. There's definitely been progress, so we're happy to be back playing games. I would say it's disappointing tonight, but we'll go back to New York and regroup and keep training hard and be prepared for what comes next."
On Saturday night, a lot of it was about not being able to stop Portland's patented counterattack, which was especially disappointing, Mackay-Steven said, considering it was NYCFC that scored the opener via first-half Jesus Medina penalty kick and felt they were the ones on the front foot for large parts of the first half.
"We were prepared, obviously it's just moments in the game when we've got bodies piling forward and then they get a loose ball and all of the sudden they're on the attack," said Mackay-Steven."It's disappointing the goals we conceded, we'll go back and look and see where we can do better, but I felt we were in control for a lot of the first half, we created a lot of good opportunities. It was just that final ball, that final pass, we were going forward in numbers, and the game was under control. It's disappointing to lose, but Portland were clinical when they got their opportunities and they took their chances as well."