This the most exciting time of the year to be a sports fan: Football is back in the States, fútbol is well underway in the rest of the world, the NHL and NBA jumpstart their seasons, the MLB playoffs are in full swing, and, of course, the MLS Cup Playoffs are here.
And with the MLS Cup Playoffs comes the inevitabile appearance of New York City Football Club. The Pigeons soared into the postseason for the seventh consecutive year after finishing as the No 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
There is so much for us fans to be excited about, so I asked interim head coach Nick Cushing what enthralled him the most before NYCFC’s Round One matchup versus Inter Miami CF. His answer was simple. “Playing in front of our home fans always excites me,” Cushing said. “Our atmosphere, our fans, the noise, and the feel we get together…I’m excited for that”
But the impressive atmosphere we ultimately experienced in our first-round thumping of Inter Miami was not always guaranteed. The match was originally scheduled to be played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, but a last-minute venue change was approved to move the game to the much-preferred Citi Field, where NYCFC have played a handful of well-attended and atmospheric matches.
That exciting “feel” expected by Cushing was there on game day in full force. Despite there being enough rain to cancel the Yankee’s playoff game over in the Bronx, NYCFC fans came out to Queens in strong numbers with ponchos, towels, drums, balloons, and some impressive singing voices. Their presence was felt on the field. “We had another teammate behind us the entire time” claimed Sean Johnson in his post-match interview. “They were incredible.”
And it wasn’t just the captain that felt the love from the fans, but the gaffer as well. After such an impressive performance from both the players and the supporters, I asked the boss how he felt about the environment at Citi Field, and how well the fans delivered on a cold rainy night in Queens. He proudly replied, “Even better than I thought they would, and I knew they would be special.”
This outpouring of praise from both Cushing and Johnson highlights what has become a remarkable relationship between a team and their fans over the course of these past two seasons. While the club’s early days exuded glitz and glamor, with high-profile European signings and plenty of fair-weather fans, this newer look stresses a sense of community that’s more representative of the city and its people.
We have an English coach at the helm of an international ship, with an attacking crew hailing from Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Our backline is comprised of players from The Bronx, Luxembourg, Peru, Sweden, Brazil, Montclair New Jersey, and one big lad from Atlanta. And with more than 18,000 fans in attendance in “The World’s Borough” on this rainy Monday night, Citi Field felt a whole lot like, well, New York.
With the squad on the field we’ve assembled, with the support we have in the stands, and maybe just with a few good bounces along the way, this club is in for special things this season, and in many seasons to come.
You should enjoy the most exciting time of the year for sports, the most exciting time of the year for this club, and a particularly exciting game we have in store for us this Sunday in Montreal. You earned it.
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