This is a view of the north side of Red Bull Arena of a picture taken from the east stands prior to Monday night’s game. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY)
By Michael Lewis
Thanks to several green screens in the stands, particularly on the east side of the stadium, parts of Red Bull Arena were decked out in blue to make New York City FC feel a little more at home.
For Monday night’s game, there were some team logos, NYCFC-oriented messages with sponsors and even some fan chants over the public address system.
Yet, something was missing for captain Alex Ring.
“It’s not home without our fans,” said Ring, who scored the lone goal of the match to boost NYCFC to a 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC in the closed-door match. “It doesn’t matter where we play, playing without fans is hard. Fans push you to go harder. Every player in the league, around the world, misses performing in front of fans.
“It’s what makes the game special…I miss the fans. [They] give the game a bit more intensity, and they can lift you up when you need it. … I just want to say I appreciate all the support we’ve been getting and hope to get back to normal soon.”
NYCFC will call RBA home, at least through Phase I of the league’s return to home market play, due to Yankee Stadium being unavailable during the baseball season.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who recorded the shutout, said the team is professional first and foremost and it doesn’t matter where it plays.
“We step on the pitch, no matter if it’s at Yankee Stadium. if it’s in Orlando and the bubble,” he said. “Every game is important, and it’s about the mentality and how you approach. So, you know there’s going to be games with 70,000-plus. There’s going to be games with less than 5,000 in the preseason games.
“It’s a testament to the guys, and the mentality of everybody to come out every single night, no matter what the occasion, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the venue and perform. That’s a trait of the best teams in the world. You see them travel all over. Home, away, neutral sites, but we just have to make sure we stay in the right mentality.
“It’d be great to play at Yankee Stadium in a place that we know best is home. But now it’s obviously a tough time and not playing in front of fans, I think we’re just making the most of the opportunity of being able to actually be on the pitch and play.”
Given the way the Red Bulls organization cares for the field, the RBA field appeared in pristine conditions. In fact, to several out-of-town observers, RBA is considered the finest stadium in the league.
Needless to say, Red Bulls fans were none too happy about their venue being anything but red, even if green screens made messages and colors temporary.
They made their feelings known on Twitter.
“Anywhere else but the @RBA_SouthWard,” Red Bulls fan Bob Larson tweeted. “I get the rest, but SW is unacceptable.”
NYCFC hosts Chicago Fire FC at Red Bull Arena Saturday at 7:30 p.m., its third consecutive match at the venue.