(NYC FC’s Chris Wingert, David Villa, and coach Jason Kreis, and Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, Dax McCarty, and Brandon Wright-Phillips at Heineken House Thursday – Photo by Jason Schott)
The New York Derby will take place for the first time at Yankee Stadium this Sunday as New York City Football Club hosts the New York Red Bulls.
This is part of the MLS’ Heineken Rivalry Week, featuring games between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night and the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders on Sunday night, which is airing after the New York Derby. Other matchups this week included Toronto FC against the Montreal Impact and Houston 96 against FC Dallas.
The New York rivalry is very important to the sport of soccer because it really doesn’t have a foothold on the east coast. The most successful clubs are Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, and Seattle, as evidenced by the fact that the Sounders play at the Seahawks’ stadium and routinely draw over 60,000 fans.
The MLS is promoting Rivalry Week heavily, with a Heineken House located at 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan, where fans can come and watch the games this weekend.
The two coaches, Jason Kreis of New York City FC and Jesse Marsch of the Red Bulls, are MLS pioneers, as both have been a part of the league since they played in its inaugural season in 1996.
Kreis began his career with the Dallas Burn, whom he played for from 1996 until 2004. He was the league MVP in 1999, when he scored 18 goals. He moved on to expansion club Real Salt Lake in 2004, where he played until 2007. Kreis scored 108 goals in 305 games in his career. Kreis stayed on with Real Salt Lake, and he coached them from 2007 to 2014, and led them to an MLS Cup in 1999.
Marsch is one of three players to have played in each of the first 14 seasons of the MLS. Marsch played his first two seasons with DC United, and they won the MLS Cup in each of those seasons. He then moved on to the Chicago Fire when Bob Bradley, who was a DC Assistant Coach, became the Head Coach in Chicago, and they won the MLS Cup in 1998. Marsch stayed with Chicago until 2005. He finished his career with Chivas USA, where he played until 2009. Marsch began his coaching career when he took over the expansion Montreal Impact in 2012, and the club finished in 12th place with 42 points. Despite doing a fine job, he left after one season after differences in philosophy with management.
Kreis said of his role in the growth of MLS and where the league is now, “I think when I allow myself the moment to take a breath and look back at it, I think that I’m proud, really, really proud to have been here, a player in 1996. Jesse was a player in 1996 as well. I feel that I’ve committed, and I’m sure he feels the same, a great deal of my life, a great deal of my sweat and blood and emotion to this game, to this sport, this league, and really just couldn’t be happier with where the game is now, where the league is now, and where I think it’s headed. It’s extremely exciting and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
Marsch said of the growth of the league, “I think it’s been phenomenal and you know I thought that the first New York Derby, the energy in the stadium was like nothing I’d ever seen, and when I first walked out (for the Red Bulls part of the press conference), I heard Jason use the word ‘proud.’ You can’t help but be proud when you go back to Day 1, and the story I always tell about my experience was, I found out I was drafted by DC United, I got a phone call the next day, OK, so that tells you how far that the league has come, but it’s become so much more professional. The play has gotten so much better, the coaching, in so many aspects the league has grown so much, and it makes you think ‘where can we be 20 years from now?’ so I think there’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to be excited about.”
This country has always been dominated by baseball, basketball, and football, with the debate on the fourth biggest sport including hockey and NASCAR. Marsch said of where he sees soccer fit in relation to the other sports, “I think we still have a ways to go to really put ourselves in the category of the Big Five, but it’s grown, and if we continue on this rate, there’s no telling where we can go, and there’s a lot of different things that are adding momentum to our league. There’s youth soccer, there’s the multiculturalism of our sport, there’s the fact that it can be played by men and women and that there’s the World Cup cycle for men and women and so, it builds momentum each year for different events, and I think that’s only going to get bigger.
“I was fortunate enough to cover the World Cup last summer (fror MLS Digital) here in New York and I was just amazed at the attention and the jerseys around the city and the energy and, when the US played, it felt like the Super Bowl times ten, so excited about the future of our sport,” said Marsch.
The MLS now draws international stars from Europe, much the way the New York Cosmos in the 1970s drew Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. NYC FC boasts Spain’s all-time leading scorer in David Villa, with Chelsea legend Frank Lampard arriving sometime this summer. Orlando City FC boasts Brazilian star Kaka.
Villa spoke of whether international stars playing here helps the growth of soccer in America, “I think this league will be among the best in the world, I am sure of it. It is a young league compared to others, but between its international arrivals and the development of US players, it all helps the continued growth of the league. I am convinced that they are doing a great job right now.”