To paraphrase President Gerald Ford’s post-Nixon remark from 50 or so years ago, New York’s long championship nightmare is over.
OK, this title doesn’t come from the usual suspects like the Yankees or Mets, the Giants or Jets, the Knicks or Nets, the Rangers or Islanders. This title comes from outliers, a reminder that sometimes the little engine that coul, prevails.
All hail the New York City Football Club, champions of Major League Soccer.
This is a team without its own stadium, afterthoughts in even its own league. But the NYCFC players today owns keys to the city, a token of gratitude that is rarely awarded in the current major sports landscape.
Consider that until these lads won the MLS playoff, New York had not had a championship since the Giants won the 2012 Super Bowl. That’s a long time between ticker tape parades. NYCFC chose a more low key, intimate celebration with a City Hall reception.
About 1,000 loyalists showed up at City Hall Park for the celebration. No ticker tape. No parade through the Canyon of Heroes. That’s all right. In the middle of December, with the unpredictable winter weather, the more intimate affair was just right for this team.
These soccer lads are largely overlooked in the landscape of New York sports. The big guys around here are the Yankees and the Mets, the Giants and the Jets, the Rangers and the Islanders, the Knicks and the Nets. Between them, they own two championships in the 21st century – the Yankees’ 2009 World Series and the Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl of blessed memory.
The Jets are still selling their 1969 Joe Namath Super Bowl. The Rangers have won one Stanley Cup in the last 80 years. No other New York franchise has won anything lately. And here is NYCFC, in just its seventh season, without a home field of their own, champions of the MLS.
This team plays its home games in Yankee Stadium and Red Bulls Park, functioning like vagabonds in their own environs. Sometimes, though, the also-rans finish first.
It was not easy to be sure. NYCFC won four playoff games and clinched the Cup in the unlikeliest of manners after surrendering the tying goal in Portland in the final seconds of regulation time, somehow surviving overtime and taking the Cup on penalty kicks.
It was exhilarating for the team and its fans. And maybe now, they’ll get a field they can call their own.