Citi Field was the third stadium NYCFC has called home this year. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Christian Arnold
QUEENS, N.Y. – If there was any point in New York City FC’s three-year history that crystalized its need for a permanent soccer-specific home, it was on Sunday afternoon.
With an important matchup against Columbus Crew SC that held important playoff implications, NYCFC found itself playing its final home game of the year on an unfamiliar field.
Due to the Yankees’ deep run in the Major League Baseball playoffs the soccer club, which calls Yankee Stadium in the Bronx home, NYCFC was forced to move its regular- season finale to Citi Field.
It was the second time in the span of a month that City had been forced to move a home game away from the stadium because of a scheduling conflict with the Yankees. NYCFC switched its Sept. 23 match against the Houston Dynamo to Pratt & Whitney Stadium in Hartford, Conn.
There weren’t any complaints from the players or coaches following the game, which ended in 2-2 draw and helped NYCFC secure the Eastern Conference second seed in the MLS playoffs. Unlike the game in Connecticut, Sunday’s affair in Queens drew a passionate group of 20,113 City supporters.
“For us it didn’t make any difference, I would say, because the crowd really showed up today,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “Our fans made a lot of noise. The support was fantastic and we had a chance to train on the field on Friday.”
City has played in Yankee Stadium since it began in 2015 and up until this season they had not had displaced twice in the span of an MLS campaign. To make matters more difficult, it turned New York’s final six games of the year into a lengthy road trip.
NYCFC has not played at its home pitch at the stadium since Sept. 9.
“I don’t know when we’ve played at home last time,” midfielder Alexander Ring said. “It feels like we’ve been on the road the whole time.”
City will get a reprieve from any conflicts with the Yankees schedule heading into the playoffs. The Yankees were eliminated from the postseason and NYCFC will get at least one more home game in the playoffs.
It will be a welcomed change for the players, who have become used to the set up in the Bronx. As for the long-term NYCFC management is trying to carve out a long-term solution to the stadium issue.
The New York Times reported last month that the club had been eyeing sites in the Bronx and at Willets Point as potential spots for a stadium. The club has also submitted a bid to the state of New York to develop a stadium at Belmont Park.
Ironically, the Mets ownership, which runs Citi Field and housed NYCFC Sunday, has teamed up with the New York Islanders and Oak View Group on a bid to construct a new hockey arena at Belmont.
That site reportedly is not the first choice for the soccer club, but even with the nomadic-like state of the team the past few weeks the stadium issue isn’t a concern to the players.
Forward Jack Harrison sidestepped a question about the team’s need for a permanent home.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson expanded a bit more.
“I think those things are being addressed,” he said. “As players we want to just focus on going out and playing our game. Those are things that are out of our hands as players.”