There was supposed to be a drum-roll. Instead there was an old fashioned New Year’s Eve style countdown as the doors were opened to unveil the identity that will carry Major League Soccer’s latest expansion team into the future. There is a new badge in town. It represents New York City FC, and designer Rafael Esquer says that he was as surprised by the choice as anyone else at the unveiling. By his smile and through his conversation, you can tell that he is obviously pleased with the decision. His approach, he says, was to look at the timeless, classic elements of New York City, to see it as a whole and yet to appreciate the individuality of the five boroughs, and come up with a design. Nothing specific in time and space, but universal — something that he believes would also have international appeal. This design, based on the New York City subway token, perfectly fits that criteria.
While his badge may be the reason for the evening, cameras and microphones crowded around NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis, who has flown in from Manchester for the event. He is there scouting the players on Manchester City’s youth team. The decisions he faces in assembling the team are whether he commits his international signings on “young, inexperienced players” or to wait and see what develops in other channels. He is in the strange position of being a head coach without a team. “I am not a patient man,” he says. He has been involved in the game professionally as a player and coach since his minor league days in 1993. “I’ve had my break. I’m ready to go.”
Even more interesting than a coach without players are the small clutch of men among the guests, a handful of fans already wearing blue and white scarves. They are a supporters club without a team and, until tonight, without a badge. Andres Loaiza talks about their identity as separate from the EPL club that shares ownership of this team with the New York Yankees. “It’s New York City, not Manchester City!” As such, they will be carving out their own niche in New York’s soccer culture, starting with things like membership cards, their own supporters bar and creating an identity that this badge unveiling will propel.
There is another current running among the guests, another forward look at what the team will mean. Dave Hahn, chairman of South Bronx United, a non-profit organization that harnesses the power of soccer to encourage academic achievement to promote health and wellness and develop leadership talents among inner-city kids, is “excited. Very excited.”
Claudio Reyna, NYCFC’s sporting director, has already been involved with their program, but he is looking further ahead to what it will mean to these kids to have a club that they can identify with. It’s not about what these kids can afford, but giving everyone a chance to play, a sentiment echoed in the words of Steve Shilling, President of the MSSL Player Progression System, an organization that, similar to South Bronx United, teaches kids about more than soccer, gives them something beyond the field while looking for players to move into clubs like NYCFC. “We want to let kids play regardless of if they have money,” he says.
There are a lot of hopes pinned on this badge. In a little less than a year, the team will take to the pitch. If this unveiling speaks for anything, it is that the team already has supporters, and even before a player is signed, is itself a supporter of dreams.