NYCFC players and coaches celebrate their MLS Cup championship. (USA TODAY Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Mother Nature usually has the first and last words on just about everything.

So, when a new day dawned on Tuesday morning, she played her role to a tee for New York City FC.

Under a clear, blue sky on a beautiful December day, New York City turned blue, honoring the heroes of the first MLS Cup won by a team from the city.

NYCFC players were lauded on the steps of City Hall of their achievement, getting praise from mayor Bill de Blasio and keys to the city while celebrating their accomplishment in front of their adoring fans.

“I think we can finally put to rest of the debate of what color the city is,” captain Sean Johnson told the crowd. “New York is Blue baby!!!!”

Johnson was referring to the Cityzens’ rivalry – the Hudson River Derby – with the Red Bulls.

Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the squad.

“You have made us proud at a moment where we needed it because we’ve been through so much these last couple of years in New York City,” he said. “We needed this victory. We needed the hope that this team is giving us. It’s more than just a victory in the game. It’s what they have done for all of us.”

Only seven years old, NYCFC captured its first MLS title. It was the city’s first national championship of a major league sports team since the Giants won the 2012 Super Bowl. It also was the first title by the top tier soccer team since the original New York Cosmos captured the 1982 North American Soccer League crown.

“We’ve been through a journey over the last couple of years right here in New York City,” said emcee Ian Joy, who was the head cheerleader of the event. “It’s not always been easy. It has been some difficult times. But we managed to make it here right now on this stage with this group of players who got the job done. But that journey has been a bit of a roller coaster and to say the least this season has been eventful.”

The season climaxed in Portland, Ore. on Saturday, where City defeated the Portland Timbers in a shootout, 4-2, after playing to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

Every player was introduced to applause from the packed crowd – it was estimated at 3,000 – including the ones that did not suit up for the cup final on Saturday. It started with the lowest number, from defender Chris Gloster and ended with the captain, Sean Johnson.

And that included head coach Ronny Deila, who was egged on by the City supporters. “Take it off! Take it off!” they chanted, remembering how he stripped off his clothes after Saturday’s triumph. When he joined the team in early 2020, Deila promised he would strip.

He teased the fans on Tuesday, tugging at the top zipper of his coat while smiling.

“Congratulations New York City,” Deila said. “The thing that makes me happy and gives me energy every day is to create something with other people, is to give everybody around me to take out their potential, fulfill their dreams and also develop myself get better all the time. And I know winning.”

“What we have achieved together is amazing. Unbelievable. I will remember for rest of my life. I almost start crying again. I don’t want to do that. But make me emotional because it’s about people. It’s about being together. It’s about doing something together because you’re nothing alone.”

Deila then thanked his players, staff, club management and NYCFC owners, the City Football Group.

“Thank you, everybody,” Thank you to Brad [Sims, CEO] for the support and the leadership. What we have done together that’s going to be expensive.”

The head coach then laughed.

When Sims took to the podium, he, not surprisingly, heard the chants, “We want a stadium! We want a stadium!”

City has played most of their home games at Yankee Stadium since joining MLS seven years ago.

“Wait for it. Wait for it,” Sims told the crowd. “It’s coming. So, I have a lot of people to thank. All right. All right. All right. Who wants it? Who wants one? One? Let’s go. Alright. What I love about our fans is the passion, the passion. I’ll get there. I’ll get there. They gave me a few minutes. I’ll get there.”

Sims eventually did get there, but NYCFC’s fans didn’t hear exactly what they had hoped for. It was a promise, not unlike the team’s supporters have heard for years. It was more like a tease.

“There are a lot of things that we want to accomplish together at this club but our top of man ambitions are two; one, win trophies and two, build a stadium,” he said. “Our players and our fans deserve both. And I’m here today to promise you that we will not stop pursuing trophies and we wait for. It’s coming. It’s coming guys. It’s coming.”

Probably not soon enough.

“Did anybody else’s heart skip a jump when he said I’ve got something to announce here today?” Joy asked the crowd.

Of course, chanting was one of the themes of the day. When captain and goalkeeper Sean Johnson was introduced, the crowd let the world know of his name.

“Hey, we did it y’all! We brought a championship. That’s ours, man. That’s ours,” he said. “It’s been an unbelievable year. You we’ve been through ups, downs. But you guys have been through it with us, together as a family, through everything. We have the best fans in the world not just it’s not just the country but the world.

“Let’s hear it for this group of boys though, because they’re giving it every single thing day in day out. Since we stepped in from preseason, they’ve been committed to lifting a trophy.

“Oh man, this is this is amazing. This is an honor to captain this team. I’ve been here five years. Thanks to the club. Thanks to Dave, the ownership group for bringing me in and believing in me. I made the commitment when I first got here to bring a trophy to the club. It’s the first time in 10 years a sports team is bringing a championship to the city. And it means the world to us.

“And most importantly thanks for you guys, man. Thanks to you guys. We got back in from the game. We saw the video that the watch party back here. It gave us chills. We saw the fans and supporters’ group when we scored. We didn’t hear the Portland’s fans in their stadium. all we heard was you guys. That’s real. That’s New York City.”

When de Blasio was introduced, he was greeted by a slight chorus of boos, but he managed to change the fans’ attitude quite quickly.

“How much do you love these guys? How much do you love these guys?” he asked. “New York City loves this team. You have made us so proud.”

NYCFC has pitched in to build 50 mini-pitches in the five boroughs with plans for 26 more leading up to the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“Thank you for that incredible commitment for the kids in New York City,” de Blasio said. “The team motto is for the city and this team lives it out. They inspire us they make us feel hope even in the toughest moments. This is an amazing team for the ages. And I have an official declaration on behalf of 8.8 million New Yorkers. It’s the clearest thing. You can see it look all around you. New York City is blue! NYC is blue!”

As we were reminded by Mother Nature on Tuesday morning.