It wasn’t long ago that a contingency of New York City FC fans, myself included, were calling for Ronny Deila’s job. Faced with streaks of poor form and an inability to consistently grab points away from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, attention and blame was immediately cast upon Deila and his ability to lead NYCFC through dark times and to trophy-winning glory. But recently, the Norwegian boss has rallied to produce some great results and has already accomplished what none of his managerial predecessors were able to.
Faced with the very real risk of missing the MLS Playoffs entirely for the first time since their inaugural season in 2015, NYCFC went on an amazing 6-game unbeaten streak to close the 2021 MLS season and ensure them at least one playoff game at home. This incredible surge came at a time when many of City’s fandom were unsure, if not outright deflated, about Deila’s performance as manager of the club. Signs adorned with phrases such as #RonnyOut — as well as condemnations of team Sporting Director David Lee and CEO Brad Sims — popped up in the team’s supporters’ section and were held high. Even as Deila’s team continued to accrue victories towards the end of the season, many of his most vocal critics remained steadfast in their criticism.
Despite being under the microscope and in the proverbial hot seat — more so in the court of public opinion than anything else — Deila kept his head down as the Night Owls headed into the MLS Cup Playoffs. An emphatic 2-0 First Round victory over Atlanta United certainly did well to quell some of the negative discourse, but for Deila to remove all doubt about his managerial abilities, the former Celtic boss had to go somewhere no City manager before him could go — an Eastern Conference Final. And to do it, he had to overcome Bruce Arena’s record-breaking regular season virtuosos, the New England Revolution. On the road.
For 90 minutes, the Boys in Blue played the Revs off of their own turf-laden pitch, creating chance after chance while holding an oppressive grip onto possession. It was a vintage display of the tactical mastery City fans saw under former manager Domé Torrent that was only seen in glimpses after Deila and his team took over. And while it wasn’t enough to get the job done in regulation, the determination and perseverance of the team saw the job to its conclusion in penalties, scoring all five while goalkeeper Sean Johnson did his part in denying New England of at least one of their penalty kicks.
This triumphant victory sees NYCFC move to to Eastern Conference Final for the first time in their seven-season history, within one game of the MLS Cup Final. The job isn’t done by a longshot, and fans will surely be holding City to a first-ever Finals appearance, and rightfully so . But regardless of Sunday’s result against, Ronny Deila has undoubtedly secured another year at the helm of the Bronx-based football outfit.