For New York City FC coach Ronny Deila, the 5-3 triumph over San Carlos in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League round of 16 on Thursday proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I’m a very attacking coach,” Deila told NYCFC.com the day he was hired. “I’d rather win 5-4 than 1-0.”
Fueled by a hat trick from Héber, who became the first MLS player to score three goals in a single CCL match, New York City earned a road win in its inaugural international match.
“The first 35 minutes was excellent, we played good football and created great chances,” said Deila who was named the club’s fourth head coach on January 6 – five days before the start of preseason.
Héber opened the scoring in the 13th minute and made it 2-0 in the 35th while converting a penalty six minutes into the second half.
Supporting Deila’s offensive claims were the fullback forays of Ronald Matarrita and Anton Tinnerholm. Matarrita, who was performing in his native Costa Rica, played a firm, bending cross for Heber’s first tally while Tinnerholm delivered a similar service from the right for the Brazilian’s second goal.
Both finishes were one-timed at the front post as Héber joined Frank Lampard, David Villa and Alexandru Mitriță as the only NYCFC players to record a hat trick.
“It makes me happy to be on the same page as those legends,” Héber said. “I hope I can still keep scoring.”
Alexander Callens volleyed home his fourth-career goal for the club off a set piece, while Mitriță finished the rebound of a Maxi Moralez penalty to complete the scoring for City.
The set-piece conversion provided a moment of satisfaction for Deila who has emphasized dead ball scenarios in his preseason plan.
“Hopefully now we can score more off set pieces,” Deila told a group of reporters on Monday prior to the match. ”That’s a thing we can be better than last year.”
Deila warned that the Toros Del Notre possessed a valid direct threat that required protection of the space behind the defense – which was precisely the method that San Carlos used to close within a goal in the first minute of stoppage time on a blistering shot by Jorman Aguilar to make it 2-1 at the interval.
“I got irritated over the last situation in the half,” Deila. “I was saying to the players that now we need to keep playing wide because we were creating chances – and then we start to play inside and get a counter-attack on us.”
City tallied twice to increase their margin to 4-1 before a San Carlos rally that was thwarted by the Mitriță stoppage time follow-up.
“I think we had OK control of the game all the time,” said Deila, whose side maintained 62-percent of the possession. “They had some chances sure but for me it’s about concentration and discipline. We lost discipline in what we were doing in the last minute of the first half and in the second half we started to get more tired.”
Deila’s attacking methods tended to expose the central defenders Callens and Maxime Chanot who were often isolated in transitional situations.
“We’ve been getting better reactions in training when we lose the ball in our transition,” Deila said. “We have to work to keep shape and discipline for 95 minutes – it’s what you need against the best teams.”
“It is not too long that we are working with the new coach and we need a few more games to know how to do exactly what he wants from us,” Héber said. “We have a week now to get ready for the next game.”
NYCFC will host San Carlos in the second leg of the Round of 16 at Red Bull Arena on Feb. 26.