Home sweet home for the NFCFC defending MLS Cup champions is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Also, across the Hudson at Red Bulls Arena. Sunday afternoon, Citi Field in Flushing was the site for the first of six as they hosted Toronto FC. It has been a difficult process the past few years for NYCFC and city officials to put the final pieces together and call a new stadium their permanent home.
The Yankees have a partial financial interest with the franchise which has enabled NYCFC to play a major portion of their schedule in the Bronx. But the Yankees and NYCFC have schedules that conflict and since their inception in 2013 converting a baseball field to soccer has taken a toll on the Yankee Stadium turf.
The Yankees are not kicking them out of the Bronx as much as it appears NYCFC has always called the stadium their home and their fan base is going along with the three-venue arrangement. And the Mets and Citi Field were more than pleased to host the MLS champions for the first of six matches with two more coming next month.
But this is a winning franchise and NYCFC was the first professional New York sports team to win a championship since the Yankees’ World Series title in 2019. As the late Rodney Dangerfield always said, “I don’t get no respect.”
Kidding of course, because if zoning commissions and those who deal with finances can come to an agreement, a proposed soccer stadium for NYCFC will eventually become their permanent home.
“I said to the boys before the game, let’s do this and make this to be our own stadium as well,” said NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila after his team won their second straight, 5-4 over Toronto FC in front of 17,726 fans.
Deila said Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are their home. More significantly, though, his team scored a lot of goals and 2021 “Golden Boot” award winner Valentin Castellanos scored his fifth goal in two games. After a slow start, Castellanos is just warming up and his goal was the start of a comeback win after trailing 2-0.
Last week at their other home in the Bronx, Castellanos scored his first four goals of the season in leading NYCFC to a 6-0 win over Real Salt Lake and was voted Major League Soccer Player of The Week.
“Like we do in Yankee Stadium and we are playing in New York instead of New Jersey so we’re very happy about that,” Deila said.
Regardless, it’s a home field and the fans will come as they did again. Citi Field is not a regulated stadium for soccer and neither is Yankee Stadium. Deila’s team was jet lagged and tired after playing the beginning of an MLS schedule and the CONCACAF championship tournament that overlapped.
League rules specified Yankee Stadium and Citi Field were not regulated for soccer. In turn, because the MLS champion is required to compete in the CONCACAF, matches were contested in Costa Rica and Luman Field up in Connecticut.
The coach, when asked, said his players were finally at home and sleeping in their own beds. The travel road has been reduced for the next month, Next Sunday, NYCFC returns to the Bronx, as they host the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium in a 1pm contest.
Yes, the “Boys in Blue” that wore orange uniforms return to their original home and they feel momentum has arrived as they get into the second portion of their league schedule. NYCFC has scored 11 goals in their last two games.
But if they keep the momentum going, score goals, and win matches, then it won’t matter where they play because NYCFC has one of the better scoring units in the league.
“The field (Citi) itself is very similar in size and the crowd was amazing. They brought incredible energy with them today,” said midfielder Keaton Parks who scored his first goal of the season at the 58 minute mark. “Citi Field definitely feels more compact, the fans are a lot closer to the field but overall the energy was great. It feels very similar to Yankee Stadium and I think that helped us score so many goals today.”
He said, “Unbelievable first game for us here at Citi Field, and we’re excited to come back.”
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso