New York City FC returns to the ESPN Wide World of Sports fields on Saturday night, aiming for a spot in the MLS is Back Tournament semifinals.
Time for the Keys to the Match for NYCFC vs. Portland Timbers, presented by Tri-State Ford…
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NYCFC got over a big obstacle in the shape of an emphatic win over Toronto FC, but Head Coach Ronny Deila is challenging his players to go even further.
"Now we have to be stars, not fireflies," Deila told reporters in his press conference. "Fireflies last for a day, stars last forever. You have to do the same things over and over again, then you can be a top, top team."
Against Toronto, NYCFC turned in one of the most complete performances we’ve seen in Orlando so far, but repeating it will now be the goal, to help cement the feeling that City have turned a corner following a tough (and hugely interrupted) start to the season.
Portland’s path through the tournament has been smoother than NYCFC’s, even though they required penalties to make it past Jaap Stam’s FC Cincinnati in the Round of 16.
Giovanni Saverese’s side enjoyed wins over LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo in the group stages, as well as drawing vs. last season’s Supporters Shield winners, LAFC, so will provide tough opposition with the likes of Jeremy Ebobisse, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri capable of causing problems for any team who isn't 100% at their game.
There aren’t many positive historical precedents in NYC’s favor vs. the Timbers, with just one 2016 victory to show for five meetings to date, but Deila and his team would love to eat into that all-time head-to-head with a knockout win this weekend.
Taty’s tactical discipline vs. TFC especially caught Ronny’s eye as the young Argentine forward both scored and enacted his instructions to the letter. Deila said: “The difference between what Taty did now and what he did for three games ago is that he has started to press the two central defenders and No. 6 player together with the other striker or No. 10 player, instead of running at fullbacks and all over the pitch, so the discipline and the organization was really, really good."
With Maxi back in form from the bench in the Round of 16, Deila could once again call on his Argentinean connection to get it done vs. the Timbers, with counter-pressing and defensive organization once again asked for from all players in order to provide the foundation for the attacking talents in City blue to shine.
For Anton Tinnerholm, the key to repeating his excellent performance last time out will be to be “as annoying as possible”.
Appearing on NYCFC at Home with The Cooligans, Anton revealed that he felt the win over Inter Miami had served as an important turning point, just as a victory over DC United at Audi Field had served as a catalyst for our 2019 season run to the Eastern Conference summit.
Anton told Alexis and Christian: “it’s just going to be fun to play a quarterfinal and now we feel like we’re in good shape and we’re going to go out and dominate the game.
“I’m just going to go out there and be as annoying as I can be, so that’s the plan.”
Watch NYCFC vs. Portland Timbers on FS1 / TUDN or listen live in English or Spanish at NYCFC.com/Radio.