Friday, April 17, 2015

Philadelphia Union 1 at NYCFC 1 - April 16, 2015

Did you know that Major League Soccer has a new team In New York? Yep, the brilliantly named NYCFC is one of two expansion teams (Orlando City FC is the other) to begin play in 2015, bringing the total number of teams in the circuit to 20 (Chivas USA folded after last season). NYCFC is jointly owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, so frontrunning fans should turn out in droves. The team will spend the first few seasons playing in Yankee Stadium while a new soccer only stadium is built somewhere within the 5 boroughs.

As MLS is one of the leagues on my venue count, I wanted to visit as soon as possible, and a weeknight game against the Philadelphia Union presented the best opportunity early in the season. Tickets were cheap on the secondary market, so I picked one up on StubHub and headed to the Bronx after work.

The crowd was small to start (the empty concourse above is a rarity at Yankee Stadium), but this was to be expected as they don't sell seats in the upper deck. As I wandered around, I saw that the Yankee Museum was open. I had been in here a couple of times before during Yankee games when it was crowded, but NYCFC fans couldn't care less about the history of their owners and the place was completely empty save for a security guard. I do not like the Yankees but you have to respect the history on display, with Babe Ruth bats and home run balls, a jersey from Gehrig, and on and on. It was nice to be able to take my time here for a change. An interesting bit of trivia for us Canadian baseball fans: the Yankees own the first World Series trophy with the Toronto Blue Jays written on it (1977, below), as well as the last (the trophy was redesigned for the 2000 series and now features blank flags).

My seat was down low near one corner flag in section 106, which is an outfield seat for baseball (view below). I would strongly suggest staying away from here as the scoreboard is partially blocked and you don't get a good view of the action at the other end from this angle. In fact, there are few good seats throughout the venue, Since the field not quite parallel to the seats, in some places you are quite far from the action even at field level. Seats behind either goal are probably the closest, with the general admission supporters' seats worth a look if you can stand up for a couple of hours. If you are not happy with your location, you can move around during halftime to find a better spot.

That's about all there is to say here. Concession prices are the same as for Yankee games (i.e. insanely overpriced) so don't bother unless you enjoy being gouged and contributing to the Evil Empire. If you only have time for one soccer stadium in the New York area, go to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, which is a proper venue for the beautiful game.

The Game

The match started quickly for Philadelphia who had a couple of chances parried away by NYCFC keeper Josh Saunders (above) before NYCFC took over. They had a few chances, with Mehdi Ballouchy missing a golden opportunity after finding himself alone in front, only to chip over the bar as the first half ended without a goal.

Twelve minutes into the second half, Ballouchy, who is on his sixth MLS team after being drafted 2nd overall by Real Salt Lake in 2006, atoned for his miss. After receiving a perfect pass from Khiry Shelton (2nd overall pick in this year's draft), Ballouchy avoided his defender and flicked a deft curling shot into the top right corner behind helpless rookie John McCarthy (#55 above). Ballouchy removed his shirt in celebrating his first goal in 3 years, earning him a yellow card.

It looked like NYCFC would escape with 3 points, but with four minutes to go. Union's Cristian Maidana lobbed a long ball into the box that drew 2 NYCFC defenders against Maurice Edu. Edu beat both and his header bounced to a wide open C.J. Sapong, who had no trouble booting it past Saunders to equalize. A late chance from Ballouchy was saved by McCarthy and the tie finished tied, 1-1. An entertaining game if you had low expectations but I don't think either team will contend for a playoff spot this year.


I overheard fans using the proverbial "we" to discuss the team ("we should have won, we always give up late goals"). Given this is the club's 6th game ever, I found it amusing that they had already identified so closely with the club and identified its weaknesses so clearly.

I can't think of a less original or interesting name than New York City Football Club. When MLS started, teams were given nicknames as in other leagues (Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution etc.) but some pretentious ass decided that new teams should feature European monikers like Toronto FC, Sporting Kansas City, and D.C. United. Seven of the 20 clubs have these dull nicknames and expect more to come as clubs in Minnesota, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Miami should all be joining the league in the next few seasons. I know MLS wants to be taken seriously on the international stage, but give the league some personality first!



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