New York City FC are in Costa Rica preparing for the Club’s first-ever Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League match.
Here’s the Keys to the Match, presented by Tri-State Ford…
It’s finally here… four months after NYCFC clinched qualification for the continent’s premier club competition, the Boys in Blue are in Costa Rica for the first leg of the Round of 16 tie vs. AD San Carlos.
Courtesy of a first place finish in the Eastern Conference and a record points tally, City were seeded in Pot One for the draw and are coming up against a team who are also making their tournament debut in 2020.
San Carlos punched their ticket to the Champions League by winning their first-ever Torneo Clasura title in 2019, defeating 34-time champions Saprissa on away goals in 2019’s final.
With two tournament newcomers facing off, it’s sure to be an occasion both sets of supporters will recall as the moment they arrived on the continental stage. For NYCFC, it's a night to remember how far we've come in a short space of time, but also a night to make it count.
The story of NYCFC’s offseason from a recruitment side is one of continuity.
City will return for 2020 with a squad that retains 90+% of the collective playing minutes in 2019, meaning there should be no issue with chemistry between the players who are back for more.
Signing Keaton Parks on a permanent basis was a key target for new Sporting Director David Lee and one he accomplished at the start of the year, bringing the midfielder back on a multi-year deal.
Elsewhere, Tayvon Gray, Gudmundur Thórarinsson and Gedion Zelalem have been added to the squad and will provide fresh impetus and competition for places.
Ronny’s First Run
While the squad has the same nucleus, there will be a new man selecting the team and orchestrating from the technical area on Thursday night in Ronny Deila.
The Norwegian has enjoyed a full preseason evaluating his new squad along with new assistants Mehdi Ballouchy and Nick Cushing and has set his sights on bringing silverware to New York City.
In an interview with The Athletic, Deila said: "I’m coming here first of all to try to win a trophy. Being the first to do that would be unbelievable. That’s why I’m here and that’s why the players are here, as well.”
That all starts on Thursday night at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto where Ronny will hope to get off to a winning start.
180 Minute Tie
A victory over two legs has evaded NYCFC in the short history of the Club - a fact Ronny and company will be looking to put right in the next eight days.
Before the return leg on February 26, NYCFC will want to put themselves in a strong position, with an away goal or two certainly on the wish list.
Against an opponent who will be looking to mark their first CCL appearance in style, NYCFC will have to be focused from the first whistle and carry out Deila’s game plan for the full 180 minutes in order to advance.
It’s sure to be an extra special trip for NYCFC’s longest serving player.
Ronald Matarrita will be playing in his old home stadium on Thursday night, following four seasons playing at LD Alajuelense in his native Costa Rica.
Returning for his fifth year at City, Ronald could also be looked upon for local insights as NYCFC enjoys its first foray into continental competition.