March 15, 2015
By Charles Cuttone
Making soccer the “City” game
BRONX -- It’s not the iconic subway token the team has selected for its crest, or the typeface reminiscent of graffiti it uses in its billboards, or that it is housed in the most iconic of American sporting venues, Yankee Stadium, that will cement New York City FC’s roots in New York. It is star power. And winning.
Ned Grabavoy celebrates Patrick Mullins goal in NYC FC's 2-0 home debut win over the New England Revolution.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
In a city that elevates its sporting heroes to almost God-like status, stars are what sell. From Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter, star power and winning have always been the most important things to capture the imagination of New York sports fans.
While David Villa will never be the most famous #7 to play in Yankee Stadium (that honor will always belong to Mickey Mantle), he showed a healthy dose of that vital star power in City’s inaugural home game.
In much the same way Babe Ruth opened the old Yankee Stadium across the street nearly a century ago, clobbering the old ballyard’s first home run, Villa scored the first New York City FC goal in the new stadium, dribbling through traffic to score in a tight spot in the 19th minute. He later set up young teammate Patrick Mullins to make it 2-0.
Villa has set in motion what Jason Kreis’ team will have to continually deliver if they are to keep the imagination of New York sports fans. Winning.
Already, New York City FC seems to have captured the imagination of area soccer fans like no other team since the Pele- and Beckenbauer-led Cosmos of the 1970s. But they will need to keep winning to keep those fans happy.
The opening day crowd of 43,507 may have included a lot of curiosity seekers, but from fans to the media talking and writing about the team, the stadium field and its potential effect on the Yankees this year, City has already surpassed its older brother New York Red Bulls as the big dog in town, that despite the New Jersey-based team having a 20-year head start and its own stadium, which really is one of the gems of American soccer.
“I think everybody dreams and thinks about what this type of opportunity could look like, and what this match could look like,” said New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis. “And I would say that it fulfilled my dreams. We couldn’t ask for a better result against a very good team, and we couldn’t ask for better support from our crowd. And also, the Revolution crowd. I thought it was quite outstanding that they had a large section that was very vocal. Again, so many positive signs about the way and the direction our league is headed, and it’s fantastic.”
A few more performances like the one in the Bronx ball yard on Sunday, and the NYC FC franchise could quickly capture the imagination of all New York sports fans, especially at a time when the city’s sports landscape desperately is looking for a winner (first place Rangers excepted.)