New York City Mayor Eric Adams kicked off the Citi Field home version of the NYCFC season Saturday evening with a welcome to Queens while providing an update on planned construction for their new home across the street.
NYCFC’s planned stadium won’t be completed until 2027, but obstacles were cleared and the overall plan also includes an economic revival for the borough. A sports complex next to Citi Field with the nearby USTA National Tennis Center.
A soccer team, NYCFC, will finally have a permanent home in a key market of the MLS, which now boasts of a billion dollar contract of streamed matches on Apple TV Plus.
The Mayor gave an assist with putting this new home deal together for NYCFC, a team in limbo without having a venue they can call their own. NYCFC played their home games at City Field and Yankee Stadium. Scheduling conflicts in the Bronx with the Yankees forced NYCFC to migrate to Queens for some of their home games.
“My son grew up playing soccer,” Adams said. “Amazing sports athleticism soccer players have, not like me,” he said with a laugh. But no laughing matter on the pitch, perhaps that assist from his Honor.
This opening game at Citi Field, well let’s say Richard Ledezma, their newest and 22-year old midfielder gave them their major assist in his first start. An assist on a decisive goal scored by Maxime Chanot, good enough for a 2-1 win over Nashville SC.
A nice welcome for the Mayor. A warm Citi Field and New York debut for Ledezma, who signed last week with limited playing time. Coach Nick Cushing took the chance and inserted his youngster. It was a major assist.
Normally, Santiago Rodriguez would be on the pitch, but he was banged up a bit after a home 1-1 draw with Atlanta at Yankee Stadium last Saturday. Ledezma acclimated quickly to new surroundings and put in the cross for the corner towards the center of the penalty area, to which Chanot found the back of the net with a tight-footed volley.
“It was nice, yeah it’s a nice assist,” Ledezma said. “I should have scored a couple goals also, it would have made my night much better but now we keep going for next week.”
He was motivated, spinning, and acknowledging the 18,687 faithful NYCFC fan base who will have that permanent home in a few years. The coach has a week to decide if his youngster will get a start at Citi Field next Saturday evening versus Dallas.
A debut assist can make an impression, considering that Ledezma hasn’t started a match in four months. He came to NYCFC last Friday, on loan from Real Salt Lake via PSV Eindhoven, with agility and speed to provide the assist.
“He was okay,” Cushing said about Rodriguez. “We just didn’t want to take the risk. We have a guy like Ricky Ledezma that is really hungry to get the start. It just felt like, between myself and Santi, like the right thing to do. Between Ricky and I, go get yourself in the rhythm.”
And this was a major assist, one that led to a goal against a top defensive team in the league. The goal was decisive, also considering that NYCFC took the early advantage, another positive part of this win.
With two consecutive wins on this three game homestand, Rodriguez is expected to start next week. However, Ledezma, who trains side-by side with “Santi, will be ready if needed again.
“Santi has been playing every game,” he said, “Santi and I get along really well, even on the pitch so I think it was the coaches decision to rest Santi and for me to get my shot tonight. I take advantage of my opportunities and I hope Santi and I can play one day together.”
Another assist or a few goals? Ledezma is content with his role, having not been in this position a week ago and now playing in the New York City spotlight. He said the fans are amazing at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
Ledezma, though, may have found his permanent home despite his being on loan until the end of December. Two assists for NYCFC, significant with the Mayor and a newcomer on a young team mixed with veterans.
And with three important points in the conference standings, developing a relationship and bonding with teammates.
“My teammates trust me ,” Ledezma said. “They give me the ball in tight spaces where I could get out of and you know that’s what it’s all about, trusting in one another and we just keep building relationships.”
Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso