Emotions were running high between New York City FC midfielder James Sands and some of the team’s supporters after the 1-3 loss to FC Cincinnati at Yankee Stadium, NYCFC’s sixth defeat in their last seven matches played.
After the final whistle, Sands, NYCFC’s current captain, was seen holding an impassioned and undeniably awkward exchange with some disappointed fans at the front of the Yankee Stadium supporters section.
You can watch the full back-and-forth below, which has been helpfully captured and captioned by Dave Moncion of the NYCFC Forever podcast.
As post-loss interactions between fans and a player go, this one was civil throughout and only got somewhat testy when the issue of NYCFC’s collective commitment and effort were raised by the supporters. That line of criticism drew the ire of the usually even-keeled Sands, with the NYCFC captain succinctly ending the conversation by saying “Don’t say we don’t care okay? Because that’s f***ing disrespectful” before walking back to the locker room.
The Sands-NYCFC supporter exchange has been divisive, with many criticizing the involved fans for their strong words given how successful NYCFC’s two most recent seasons have been. Former MLS and United States men’s national team player Herculez Gomez also made the point that players have nothing to gain by participating in these post-match airings of grievances:
If you’ve been paying attention to the wider soccer world in recent weeks, this exact type of supporter-player exchange after a defeat might look familiar. AC Milan’s players stood around and got a talking-to from the club’s ultras after they lost to a club near Serie A’s relegation zone. On domestic shores, LA Galaxy supporters had lengthy exchanges with players and coach Greg Vanney after their home loss to Charlotte FC, a team-supporter conflict that came after months of protests from Galaxy supporters who called for team president Chris Klein’s ouster, and ouster that actually occurred this week.
Player chastisements for “disrespect” from fans also might be familiar if you’ve been following the drama unfolding around Toronto FC, Bob Bradley, and the team’s allegedly disgruntled, feuding, vaping-obsessed Italian Designated Players. Mark-Anthony Kaye was told by a fan to “Tell Papa Bradley that it’s time to go,” with Kaye quick to respond “That’s not right, that’s disrespectful” before walking away.
It’s certainly commendable Sands stopped to hear some of his fans’s complaints out, but it also served little purpose other than as a venting session for these few unhappy supporters, and as a source of catharsis for any fans who watched it and who feel similarly aggrieved by NYCFC’s losing streak.
No matter how strongly you might feel about what went on in this conversation between Sands and the fans, this currently seems undeniable: The vibes around NYCFC are terrible.
The fans are frustrated with a lengthy run of losses and are looking to see something, anything from the team they support that convinces them good times are right around the corner. Sands, a stand-in for the players as match day captain and member of the team’s “leadership group,” is similarly frustrated, but clearly wants to send the message that the players’s effort and level of caring is not to blame for NYCFC’s current predicament.
Signs of supporter unease have been starting to bubble to the surface as NYCFC’s struggles have extended to their two primary home fields. A banner calling for the jobs of NYCFC’s coach and sporting director was visible throughout much of the loss to the Philadelphia Union at Citi Field. The supporters section at Yankee Stadium was also noticeably drum-free for the loss to FC Cincinnati, which made for a more subdued atmosphere and may or may not have been an intentional choice made in protest by the usual drumming supporters of the bleachers.
The hope now has to be that the results on the field improve for NYCFC, and the mood around the club rises along with the team’s place in the table. If not, this interaction between Sands and the supporters could just be the start of a long, unhappy summer in the city.