New York City Football Club were in ‘full control’ during their Concacaf Champions League first leg against Santos de Guápiles, according to Head Coach Ronny Deila.
The Boys in Blue kicked off their participation in continental competition on Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica where a first-half brace from Taty Castellanos allowed NYCFC to emerge 2-0 winners ahead of the second leg next week. Speaking after the game, Deila commended his side’s ability to dictate proceedings on the road.
“We had full control of the game,” Deila said after the game. “You can see that they didn’t create anything, even though we got [down to] 10 men. We were really solid and disciplined and compact. So that was very pleasing, and also the big chances we created as well. We had many chances, we should have scored even more. But when we get through their front players, we created chances over and over again and that's a good thing.”
Elsewhere, the Norwegian tactician singled out midfielder Gedion Zelalem for praise. The former U.S. Youth international was making just his second start for NYCFC, and showed his technical ability in the heart of midfield.
“I believed in Gedion all the time, he has been here already two years. But he's been injured all the time,” Deila added. “The reason we have kept him is because we know when he’s injury-free, he has quality that few other players have in this league. Technically very, very gifted, has good awareness, good understanding of the game. So he still needs to work on his defense play, and I think that's improving as well also. So I have a lot of expectation for Gedion in the future.”
NYCFC will now prepare for the second leg of the tie next week at Banc of California Stadium. The Boys in Blue will be without Santiago Rodríguez, however, after he picked up a second half red card. While Deila was frustrated with the referee’s decision to dismiss Rodríguez he also saw avenues his side could still improve heading into next week.
“I think what we struggled with a little bit today was to play through the midfield. When we first played through the midfield, we created chances all the time,” said Deila. “I think Santi was really good, Maxi Moralez was top and Talles Magno and Taty, and those four together, they opened them up every time they get turned in between the lines. So it's going to be tough for the other team to defend against us when we get more play together with these players.”