New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila leaves club for European return

Nashville SC v New York City FC
Nashville SC v New York City FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

After two and a half seasons with New York City FC, Ronny Deila is leaving the club to join Standard Liège in Belgium’s first division.  The head coach leaves Major League Soccer with a 46-29-15 record and an MLS Cup, in which he led his team to the coveted trophy just last season.

According to Deila, the move was “not an easy decision”.  However, he felt it was the “right time to take on this new challenge and return to Europe”.  NYCFC also mentioned how he wanted to be closer to home, which is often a part of the decision making for European MLS coaches returning to Europe. 

In some ways, Deila leaving NYCFC is surprising.  Yes, there have been rumors over the last few months, but winning coaches always spark rumors.  No one expected Deila to move mid-season, nor leave so quickly. 

At the same time, he did lead the Pigeons to an MLS Cup, so it is not surprising European clubs came calling.  It is likely the offer from Standard was one he could not turn down too.  And again, Belgium is much closer to his native Norway.

Ronny Deila leaves New York City FC for Belgium

Nonetheless, Deila brought two trophies to New York City FC, with the Eastern Conference win and MLS Cup win.  If he preferred to leave, then he deserved it.  That still does not hurt the loss for the club, especially since he led the team to first place in the Eastern Conference before the international break.

Also, the difference with the MLS and European leagues’ schedules does not help.  If someone state-side wants to move elsewhere, often they will have to move mid-season, as NYCFC saw with Patrick Vieira.  The club stressed how they wanted Deila to stay as well, but ultimately they had to respect the Norwegian’s wishes.  Sporting Director David Lee said the following to the media about the last few weeks:

"Ultimately, last week Standard Liege met a clause in Ronny’s contract that enabled Ronny to have a decision about whether he wanted to remain in New York or leave.  He informed us that he wanted to move to Belgium."

"The conversations were normal; [Deila] wanted to stay and we wanted to keep him. He said it was a really hard decision – speaking to him in the last couple of weeks, it was really difficult for him. We weren’t able to agree on an extension before now and when Liege met the clause, he had a decision to make."

David Lee

Undoubtedly, there is mutual respect between Deila and the front office.  As much as it hurts for Deila to leave, NYCFC respected his wishes, which is the right thing to do. 

If there is one positive though, then it is the fact that Assistant Coach Nick Cushing has been named as the Interim Head Coach.  The former Manchester City Women’s Football Club manager has been a part of City Football Group for years, and has found success in the women’s game. 

Plus, he has been with Deila since 2020, and knows his style of play and the culture he has instituted into the club.  This should mostly lead the Pigeons to business as usual, with just a different person in charge.  As the season progresses, fans will then see Cushing’s own coaching ideas and style mixed in.  Alas, even Cushing himself told the media how he does not “see too many changes”, illuminating a sense of continuity and consistency.

In the end, Deila will be missed.  His time with New York City FC was certainly an adventure though, full of ups and downs, hurt and glory, and failure and success.  There were times where most fans wanted Deila to leave, and many were overly critical of him.  But, with the MLS Cup run, and the start of 2022, he changed many minds, and now he is beloved amongst the supporters.