When Andrew “Barney” Barnard, a New York City FC supporter since 2015, watched his team’s gritty last-minute win over the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Final, he knew he needed to be in the stands when City face the Portland Timbers in the 2021 MLS Cup Final.
The problem? Barney lives in Portsmouth, England, and the MLS Cup Final is being held in Portland, Oregon. He estimated the trip would cost around $1300 (£1000): About $800 plus 50,000 air miles for the flight, $250 for COVID testing, and $250 for the hotel. That sum was well beyond the budget of Barney, who works as the manager of an O2 Store that sells mobile phones, and who lives with his partner and her children.
Desperate times call for desperate tweets: Barney turned to the NYCFC community on Twitter and passed the hat.
“At first I thought it sounds a bit of a beggar’s thing to do,” Barney said over FaceTime. “But what’s the worse thing that can happen?”
New Yorkers might be jaded, but his appeal resonated: Within the hour, a number of strangers sent Barney around $260. One NYCFC supporter he knows only on Twitter offered to put him up in a hotel for the first night, another for the second.
That was enough to make the trip affordable. A fan he already knew took care of getting a ticket in the away supporters section. “The match ticket is only $10 after all, so a beer and hug will be exchanged,” he said.
Barney was thrilled by the response, but not entirely surprised by the generosity of NYCFC supporters. “The team is so united, and there seems to be such a huge spirit, that it makes you want to be part of it,” Barney said.
Barney has backed NYCFC since the club was founded. “In 2014 and 2015 I was a massive night owl, and I often stayed up late playing FIFA and watching Sky Sports in the UK,” he said. “MLS was being broadcast then, and around the time we were being incepted was when we signed Frank Lampard. He’s one of the few English players I adore who has never played for any of my teams.” Lamps to New York City? Barney was on board.
Barney has been to two NYCFC games, both in New York. “I love that we play at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “It’s novel, even though it’s a bit unpopular now.”
He likes NYCFC’s chances against the Timbers. “This team has come on so so far in Deila’s time,” Barney said about the NYCFC manager. I’ve always been on Team Ronny. He’s such a passionate character I wouldn’t understand how you couldn’t be on his side.”
Tickets bought, hotels booked, COVID tests negative: Barney will arrive in Portland later tonight.
Before leaving, Barney posted a new request on Twitter: Where do you get the best craft beer in Portland?
That’s the kind of question that will unite supporters of both NYCFC and Portland—even the Timbers Army might be happy to help out Barney on that front.