Soccer Kicks Off with a Bang in the Bronx
Photos by Gary Quintal
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, MARCH 16- The long awaited arrival of the first team in MLS history to represent New York City took place at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Controversies and expectations were high as the day of the first NYC FC game in New York City approached.
To those in the stadium, except for fans of the New England Revolution, the controversies were forgotten as the expectations were more than met. After the starting lineup of the NYC FC was announced, the Revolution fans, seated behind third base chanted, “Where is Lampard?.” They were referring to English star Frank Lampard, who will remain with Manchester City, the 80 percent owner of NYC FC. He will not join NYC until July.
Another controversial issue was playing soccer in a non‐soccer dedicated stadium. The question was asked of Coach Jason Kreis and superstar David Villa after the match. Both responded with their satisfaction of the conditions on the Yankee Stadium. Villa answered thusly, “The pitch was fine today. With even better weather, we will benefit from even better conditions.”
Kreis spoke of the positives of the occasion, “It fulfilled my dreams. We couldn’t ask for a better result against a very good team, and we couldn’t ask for better support from our crowd.”
Original plans were for approximately 27,000 seats to be allocated for the crowds at NYC FC matches. The opening day crowd numbered 43,507 fans, an extremely impressive and happy surprise for the organization.
Another happy surprise was the final score of the match. To the delight of the crowd, NYC was victorious by a score of 2‐0. The shutout by veteran goalie Josh Saunders was, of course, his first of the new season and the 21st of his career. He commented, “I think we can truly give something for the fans in New York City to cheer about.”
Most of those in the stands were looking forward to watching the excellent talents of Spanish superstar David Villa, the first player signed by the club to bedisplayed during the match. They did not have long to wait as Villa scored the first goal of the match at the 19 minute mark on an assist from Ned Grabovoy. Kreis said of the American, a member of MLS Cup winners in 2005 and 2009, “Grabovoy is an extremely important member of this team.”
Late in the second half, the 84th minute, Villa expertly set up the last goal with a pass to Patrick Mullins, who has entered the match as a substitute less than one minute earlier. Kreis remarked, “Most of the credit for that goal goes to David.” Mullins, who was drafted by New England last year, enthused over having Villa as a teammate, “The biggest thing I’ve taken from him is he’s a winner. He’s such a special player.”
The New York City team will travel to Colorado to face the Rapids on March 21 and return to Yankee Stadium for their second home match against Kansas City on Saturday evening, March 28.
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