Major League Soccer

New York City FC-D.C. United Preview

Ronny Deila is confident New York City FC are "in a good place" and will improve as the season goes on after they start away at DC United on Saturday.

NYCFC finished fifth in the Eastern Conference last year to reach the playoffs but saw their season ended in farcical fashion.

A 21-minute penalty shootout against Orlando City was littered with errors - most notably from the officials - before Deila's side were finally eliminated.

A run of only three defeats in 17 matches had taken NYCFC to that stage, though, and they are hoping to again see progress over the course of the campaign.

"I think we're much stronger now than we were last year," Deila said. "We've been one year together, we've developed a lot of the players. They're taking steps all the time.

"We're in a very good place right now. At the same time, we have open spots we can fill during the season.

"Here in the US, the playoffs is everything, so we can get stronger and stronger during the season."

Hernan Losada is Deila's opposite number on Saturday yet he, by comparison, is less settled in DC, where Ben Olsen's long reign as head coach was ended in October.

"When you come to replace a coach after 10 years, you need some time," Losada said. "You know? You can't change everything in six, seven weeks.

"Rome wasn't built in a couple of weeks, so it will take some time."

Only FC Cincinnati kept DC off the bottom of the East in 2020.

DC United - Julian Gressel

Gressel, arriving from Atlanta United, was expected to have a big impact in 2020, having been involved in 20 goals and created 79 chances in the prior campaign. A slow start to life in DC saw the midfielder provide just 38 key passes last term and his team-mates need much more from him.

New York City FC - Keaton Parks

NYCFC will miss Alex Ring, who led the team in a number of metrics last season but then departed for Austin FC. His move means Parks must become a more dynamic performer this year. Although his 166 passes into the final third trailed only Ring, the former Benfica man created a meager 18 chances.

- NYCFC are unbeaten in their past four meetings with DC United (W2 D2), their longest such run ever. NYCFC have conceded only one goal over the four matches, doing so in a 4-1 win in October 2020.

- After scoring just 11 times in their first 15 matches last season, DC scored 14 times in their final eight matches. United's 11 goals through the end of September were tied for second-fewest in MLS (with Nashville, behind FC Cincinnati's eight), while their 14 goals from October until the end of the season had them in the top half of the league in scoring in that period.

- No team scored more goals from the beginning of October until the end of the season than NYCFC (23). Including their 4-0 win over Cincinnati in the last week of September, NYCFC scored 27 goals in their final 10 regular season matches, the most they have ever scored in a 10-match span in the club's MLS history.

- Only Walker Zimmerman of Nashville SC (5.64) averaged more clearances per game than DC trio Donovan Pines (5.56), Frederic Brillant (5.21) and Steve Birnbaum (5.20) last season.

- NYCFC's Valentin Castellanos averaged a shot every 23.6 minutes in the 2020 regular season, no other player took a shot more than once every 34 minutes.

Updated April 16, 2021

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