What an amazing day. Its difficult to put into words what I’ve been feeling through the day. Gearing up for the historic first home game of New York City Football Club has been years in the making. I can start by saying I had a hard time falling asleep last night, and felt a odd nervous excitement going into today.
While venturing from Long Island to the Bronx I had no idea what to expect from a brand new soccer crowd supporting a brand new football team. We did not develop from grass roots, and there has been little to no guidance in terms of what to do at the game. My curiosity, or perhaps concern was lessened as I made my way toward the stadium the chants of NYC! NYC! NYC! Could be heard from the near by bars, and from groups of supports holding flags and scarfs making their way toward the venue.
While momentarily stopped by security on the way in a loud commotion could be heard from across the street as the independent NYCFC supporters group The Third Rail was completing their march and reaching the stadium. There were hundreds of people raising the baby blue, white, and orange going nuts on their way in, it was awesome to witness.
The excitement and anticipation was in my opinion second only to a marquee matchup for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but even then the NYCFC supporters could give them a run for their money. Once inside it was a hive of activity as people were running too and fro from concession stands and merchandise stores to their seats. The faces of the supporters were young kids with young parents, or young adults few breaking the 40 mark.
The entire atmosphere was beautiful despite the cold as people waited for the opening kickoff. A spectacular rendition of the National Anthem and we were set for commencement. I was seated adjacent to the official supporters section in left field, section 133, and from my vantage point there wasn’t a single person sitting while the clock was running. For the full 93+ minutes members did not sit.
The beauty of the game was narrated artfully by Irish spectators sitting behind me, cursing and swearing, and singing acting as the most spirited members of my section. The game was absorbing as New York seemed to play on their heels for most of the first half, despite getting their chances, and taking a 1-0 lead off the boot of a determined David Villa.
The raucous chants for Josh Saunders after making a key save where special to say the least. It was as if we were trying to convey that we had not forgotten the sacrifices he had made in the teams first ever appearance. The man had been bleeding from the head, and The Third Rail and Supporters alike where going to let him know we appreciated it.
Of my few gripes I’d have to say that for large chunks of the game those around me where somewhat muted. From my position in the stands, the fans acted somewhat how I expected them to act having no true unified foundation. Many were watching the game in silence, fewer where chatting among themselves about soccer in general, and fewer still where screaming their heads off supporting the home side.
There were absolutely moments of pure pandemonium, and I will happily admit that I myself started more than one N.Y.C. chant, although it would be the easiest to get a bunch of strangers to agree too. As mentioned before the place exploded with emotion after Villa scored the first in the first, and even still went bonkers when Villa and Patrick Mullins applied the Dagger in the 85’ to take a 2-0 lead.
I have no doubt that the atmosphere will get there. It’s difficult to get New Yorkers to agree to anything especially a bunch of people who have never met before, and are experiencing a new environment for the first time. From the crowd reaction, and response to play on the field they were hungry, and excited. The first home game couldn’t have gone better for the home squad.
There is much more growing to do for the fans, as there is for the team. The passion, and dedication is there. As the team, and supporters demonstrated there is endless potential. It may take time, and some things will come together sooner than others. Once we are all on the same page I have no doubt in my mind that great things will happen, and for that I couldn’t be happier.