NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila speaks at a fan event...

NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila speaks at a fan event on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Ryan Gerbosi

What has the first month of life in the big city been like for New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila?

“I haven’t seen it too much,” Deila said. “Of course, the city is unbelievable. I'm looking forward to really getting to know it.”

Hired last month and with just six weeks to prepare his side for its first competitive match of the season, Deila said he’s been hard at work as he tries to learn what he can about his new team.

He’s been pleasantly surprised by the players' attitude and character.

“I think the mentality, the togetherness and also it's surprised me some of the skills that's there,” Deila told Newsday last week. “We have a lot of players who can make a difference. That's good to know as a coach.”

The club has spent much of the preseason in warmer climates, training in Florida and California before returning home last week for a quick break. This week, the team is training in Miami, making final preparations for its CONCACAF Champions League debut at Costa Rican champion AD San Carlos on Feb. 20.

Deila, who did not bring his staff from his previous club (Valerenga in Norway) to NYCFC, said the trips have been crucial for him as he learns what the club is all about and the personalities behind it.

“First thing is to get to know all the people, you know, the staff too. I came alone here, so now I know who I'm working with, know the players,” Deila said. “I've spent a lot of time with the players and the staff. They understand me and I understand them.”

Deila said the preseason training and matches all have been productive means for him to learn more about the squad, allowing him to slowly begin working his own small touches into their play.

“Then it's about implementing my own [way of] playing into what they've done before,” Deila said. “I have to learn from what they have and get some of my points across also. I think it's important not to have a revolution, more of an evolution to take it step by step. I think we've had a good start.”

Part of Deila’s evolution likely will include the further introduction of youth talent from NYCFC’s academy. The Norweigian said he was pleased by what he saw from the young players on the preseason roster, including Long Island's Joe Scally and Brooklyn’s Justin Haak. He also was impressed James Sands, who saw significant time under former head coach Domènec Torrent, and current academy players Osaze De Rosario and Andres Jasson.

“I like the mentality of the young players. It's important to have a mentality for the team so we don't have to have players all of one age, it'll be different,” said Deila. “They will make an impact.”

NYCFC had its most successful campaign on the pitch last year, finishing the regular season atop the Eastern Conference to earn a Champions League berth, and while Deila has high ambitions in his first season, a successful season isn’t all about getting City its first trophy.

“There's two things: One is result-wise, the dream is to win something. It's tough, but it's possible. But the other is you have to see development. I'll have to see how the squad is going forward,” Deila said. “But it's already a very good team. There's also a transition when you bring a new coach in to get to know each other. I'm similar, but I have my things compared to Domènec.

“So for me, I'd like to see the playoffs. It's the most important thing here. That's also something, you have to improve the team the whole season to be the best in the end. You need to be in the playoffs. That's the most important, you want to get higher up the table for the whole year. See improvement all the time and be there when it's time to get that crucial win.”

Deila said the team’s preparation for AD San Carlos begins in earnest this week in Miami. While American teams have yet to find much success in the continental competition, Deila is relishing the chance to start the quest for a trophy from the season’s opening kick.

“Just going and playing games and competing, that's what I love,” Deila said. “We get the important games started right away, and also we want to fight for something. There's four trophies that are there for us, it would be fantastic for one of those to be here.”

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