NYCFC Faces Pro Soccer’s ‘Title-Town’

New York Red Bulls claim Supporters' Shield, Cosmos win fall NASL Championship
by Nick Chavez   |   Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

New York City is suddenly U.S. Pro-Soccer’s “Title-Town”, and probably at just the right time for the two clubs hoping to compete with the financial and brand power that New York City seems destined to enjoy.

Red Bull New York have just won its first piece of major silverware, the MLS Supporters’ Shield, in its 18-year existence in dramatic fashion, a 5-2 victory over a Chicago Fire side fighting for their lives. Red Bulls came back from a goal down at home (a vintage, highlight-reel finish from international legend Thierry Henry leveled the score) to win the coveted Shield, having the best record in all of Major League Soccer.

Furthermore, the storied New York Cosmos club also has some new silverware to add to their trophy case as the newly-crowned Fall Champions of NASL.

As for the Supporters’ Shield, this is a trophy that is getting more respect, as it should, since in most countries, the team with the best record is the undisputed champion of the entire league. Some fans disagree, but the irrefutable fact remains that the Supporters’ Shield champion is the club with the best record in the league, and it should be treated that way. 

As for the tangible gains, RBNY now have a long-coveted place in the CONCACAF Champion’s League, with a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup against the champions of every confederation on the globe up for grabs. They will also enjoy home field advantage in the MLS playoffs, including the MLS Cup final, which will be played in Red Bull Arena if Red Bulls manage to reach the final.

Having just won its first piece of major silverware in MLS history, RBNY, which dates back to the inaugural season of Major League Soccer as its previous incarnation of New York/New Jersey Metrostars, can breathe a little bit easier, knowing New York City will begin vying for the metro area fans as soon as 2014, and the NASL’s New York Cosmos have already also begun that process, bringing in healthy attendance numbers to games in their first season in the revived, essentially second-tier NASL. No longer can Red Bulls be derided as never winning anything. No longer can they be ignored for not competing for top honors. They are a proud, founding member of MLS, this time with the silverware, stars, and charismatic coach to back it up. They’ve been selling out their stadium lately, as well. It is difficult to remember a time when Red Bull Arena’s crowd was so numerous and exuberant. The sense of importance in the stadium is palpable, which makes it ever-more difficult to ignore by the media and the surrounding communities.

The touching spectacle of the homegrown Red Bulls rookie manager Mike Petke emotionally addressing Red Bull Arena via microphone after winning the club’s historic Supporters' Shield was particularly moving as an MLS fan. The pride and passion he had for his club was visible, and he knew how important his team’s achievement was for the current and future success of the club. One couldn’t help but get that feeling that we may be seeing the budding of an MLS and New York City area sports-star in Petke. The genuine way in which he carries himself, the frankness in his dialogue with the media, and the intensity in which he goes about his work can only help build the profile of MLS and Red Bull New York in the metro area.  And as a history-making champion in his rookie year, he already has a hell of a resume to back it up in his fledgling coaching career. 

Now a club of achievement, Red Bulls will be much more difficult to dismiss, and now the impetus will be on New York City FC to really prove themselves when they arrive to play in 2015. They’ll have to out-do their accomplished, more established neighbor. They’ll also have to compete for fans (and potentially in the U.S. Open Cup) with a recognized brand in the New York Cosmos, who are living up to their heritage by already becoming NASL Fall Champions in their first season back, and booking themselves in the unfashionably-named NASL “Soccer Bowl” final. NYCFC will have the pressure of having to assert themselves in a city already represented by two recent champions, something that was not the case just two weeks before, and will have to contend with the proud, energized fan-bases that go with it.

For the supporters of Red Bulls, Cosmos and NYCFC, as well as for neutrals, this really spices up the upcoming cross-town rivalries. NYCFC will be coming in huffing and puffing, buoyed by two great sports franchises in their owners Manchester City and the New York Yankees, as well as the cutting-edge advertising expertise of Droga5, and being the only pro-soccer club actually playing in New York City. They will also almost certainly be putting some high-profile international stars in their three designated player positions, with NYCFC Director of Football Operations Claudio Reyna promising they would be filling all three slots by the beginning of their first season.

Any soccer supporter knows that the history and prestige of clubs can really raise the temperature of rivalries, with all the pride felt by the supporters, and the interest it attracts with neutrals. Nascent New York City FC now have the challenge of attracting fans in a pro-soccer market that now has two successful clubs, and will have to compete with a RBNY side that has broken the “Curse of Caricola”, and will be much stronger psychologically because of it. And anyone who knows the game understands how important that can be.

NYCFC has it all to prove now. 


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