July 16, 2016
It's time to root, root, root for the home teams
By Michael Lewis
NYC FC striker David Villa leads MLS with 12 goals.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
I am rooting for both of New York's Major League Soccer teams to win Sunday.
That's right. You heard it here first.
Yes, I know there is supposed to be no cheering in the press box, or even outside of it by sportswriters.
What I am doing might sound sacrilege to many media members, but let me explain before anyone gets out the tar and feathers or moans to social media.
I am rooting for New York City FC to prevail over the Montreal Impact and the Red Bulls to avenge their Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup elimination by the Philadelphia Union.
I haven't turned into a homer, but I am rooting for a story, the best possible story for metro area soccer.
If both teams win they will be in a position to battle for first place in the Eastern Conference in the third and final Hudson River Derby encounter of the year next Sunday (well, at least for the regular season).
Given how the first two confrontations went, the rubber match has the potential to be a doozy for bragging rights and for the right to color New York City red or blue for the rest of the regular season.
And what better way than to take it into a higher orbit than to have the teams battle for first place?
Prior to Sunday's games, this is how the standings look:
1. NYC FC (8-6-6, 30 points)
2. Philadelphia Union (8-6-5, 29)
3. Red Bulls (8-9-3, 27)
As I have said many times before, I root for the story, not for a team. If it means a local team needs to win to make it the best possible tale to tell or even to lose it, so be it.
Heck, sometimes even a draw works, believe it or not.
Remember, I am a journalist, not a fan.
Regardless what transpires at Red Bull Arena, you have to look at the big picture. I am not aware of any first-place side clinching a playoff berth or the conference crown in July. There is so much soccer to be played.
Saying that, this year's derby matches seemingly have come and gone way too quickly. Three games within 65 days somehow waters down the rivalry.
Too much too soon.
So, some words of advice to Major League Soccer for scheduling in 2017 and beyond:
Spread out the matches. Have one in May, another in July and the last one, let's say, sometime in September.
I realize that NYC FC's schedule will be determined when the Yankees play at home, but with next year's derby switching to a pair of games at RBA, it should be much easier to determine the right playing dates.
The first five games of what hopefully will be a long and successful rivalry have been fun to watch, with many story lines, and a stadium environment and noise that sometimes can rival those of overseas.
And that's what these games are supposed to be all about, right?
The only thing better would be a meeting in the playoffs in November, for the right to play or perhaps even host MLS Cup. But I am getting way ahead of myself.
Right now, both teams need to win to set the table for what could be one delicious Sunday brunch.