Ronny Deila is happy for New York City FC to continue flying under the radar in their attempt to catch New England Revolution at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
City eased to a 2-0 win over Inter Miami CF in their last match to stretch their unbeaten league run to six matches, four of those ending in victory.
The Pigeons are second in the East and 12 points behind leaders New England, whom they have two games in hand on and are set to face later this month.
Before that potentially huge top-of-the-table clash, however, City have a trip to Philadelphia Union on Wednesday and then a showdown with rivals New York Red Bulls.
Asked if his side can realistically keep pace with the Revs, Deila said: “They have been unbelievably good. They hardly ever lose and the gap on the others is big.
“But it’s still the halfway point and there are so many games left, so we will keep on going. I’d love to be under the radar until the last game and then win at the end.
“That’d be the best thing, so I don’t care if we’re under the radar. We know that we have to keep improving and work on certain aspects, though the other teams will also improve.”
Reigning Supporters’ Shield holders Philadelphia are three points behind their next opponents following a disappointing run that has seen them win one of their last five games in MLS.
The Union went down 2-1 to the Revs in their last league game, before losing 2-0 to Club America in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final tie.
The second leg of that continental tie does not take place until next month and head coach Jim Curtin is now fully focused on league matters.
“We’re not taking the league any lighter or anything like that,” he said. “Our goal is to still go for both of those trophies. Our expectations have not changed.
“We are in good shape for this next match. We had the most guys we’ve ever had in training on the eve of the match. Everybody on the roster is available for selection.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Philadelphia Union – Cory Burke
Burke has been in and out of the side of late and had to settle for a second-half appearance from the substitutes’ bench against America. The Jamaica international went on a scoring run prior to the Gold Cup and Curtin could do with the forward ending his four-game scoreless streak in this contest.
New York City FC – Maximiliano Moralez
Valentin Castellanos has been in great form for City with two goals and two assists in his last two appearances, but he is not alone in stepping up during his side’s unbeaten run. Maximiliano Moralez set up the first of Castellanos’ goals in the win against Inter Miami and now has six assists for the season – only three players in the division have more.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– New York City have won nine of their 14 all-time MLS meetings with Philadelphia (D1 L3 L4, including playoffs), including a 2-0 win in Philadelphia on May 1. Those nine wins are the most New York City have recorded against any opponent in their MLS history.
– Philadelphia are unbeaten in seven straight home matches (W5 D2) since losing 2-0 to New York City FC on May 1. Since the start of last season, the Union are unbeaten when allowing fewer than two goals at home (W14 D2) and have lost all three matches in which they have conceded more than once (incl. playoffs).
– New York City are unbeaten in a season-best six straight matches (W4 D2), though the two draws in that span came in their only away matches. NYCFC are winless in four straight game on the road (D2 L2) since a 2-1 win at LAFC in late May.
– Paxten Aaronson became the second 17-year-old to score for the Union this season (after Quinn Sullivan) in the 2-1 loss to the Revs on August 8. The Union are the third team to have multiple players score before their 18th birthday in a single MLS season after D.C. United in 2001 and Colorado Rapids in 2019.
– Castellanos scored his first brace of the season in NYCFC’s 2-0 win over Inter Miami, scoring both goals in the first half. Castellanos is the third NYCFC player to score multiple first-half goals in a match after Alexandru Mitrita and David Villa, who each did so on three separate occasions.