A key part of New York City FC’s veteran core, Anton Tinnerholm knows this feeling all too well. A strong regular season leading to optimism of a deep playoff run only to suffer a gutting early-round exit.
In many ways for the Swedish fullback, it was a microcosm of a season, and year, unlike any other.
“Losing in this way is brutal,” Tinnerholm said in a video conference call with reporters after the match. “Of course, last year was tough as well, but mentally this year has been maybe the toughest in our careers and to end the season this way is 2020 all over this game and the ending of the season unfortunately.”
Adding to the pain for NYCFC, though, is how much in control of the match they were. And then Ruan’s sending off in the 87th minute changed the game — for the worse — for NYCFC.
“I'm very, very devastated of course, it's tough to lose a game like this,” NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. “I think we did a really really good game up to we get to the 11 against 10. We controlled them good, had more chances than them. I felt we were the dominant team. After they get 10 men, I think we lost focus, discipline, organization and then I think they were more dangerous than us in that period.”
Highlights: Orlando City SC 1 (6), New York City FC 1 (5)
“I think we’re just a much better team than Orlando,” midfielder Keaton Parks said. “They got the victory today, but it was just a difficult game all around. I think we dominated after their goal and we had plenty of chances that we should have scored. I just think we deserved the win today so it’s definitely tough to take.”
Deila said his team’s inability to put the game away, especially with the extra man, speaks to needing “a better mentality.”
“We have this game in our hands, and we lost it. And that's the mentality thing we have to improve,” Deila said. “People have to improve, I have to improve, everybody has to improve. We will have our ups and downs together, but it’s about are you willing to improve? Are you wiling to sacrifice everything to be a winner? We are not there yet. We’re getting better, but i want players, staff, everybody who wants to win and then we have to stand up in situations like this.”
NYCFC were the hottest team in MLS down the stretch of the regular season, winning their final four games. Deila had all the belief in the world that his team had the quality to play for, and win, MLS Cup, which makes the loss even tougher to take.
“I’m devastated now because this was a big, big chance for us and I really thought we can go all the way this year, but we didn't do it,” Deila said. “We made a good fight. I'm sure it was fantastic to watch. But, we should have won this game.”
While their MLS Cup quest is over, NYCFC’s season strangely is not. There’s still the continuation of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals against Tigres back in Orlando next month.
“I think we know we have a good chance of moving forward in that tournament as well,” Parks said. "I think we just need to refocus our minds and after today just forget it and move on to the Champions League where we have a chance to get another trophy.”
That refocusing, though, won’t come easy for Tinnerholm.
“Right here and now, it’s hard to find any motivation to do that to be honest, but we’re going to give it a couple of days and weeks and we’ll have to be prepared for that,” Tinnerholm said. “But right now, I can’t look forward to that. It’s just devastating being here and to lose on penalties in a playoff game, it doesn’t get any worse than that.