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Yankee Stadium is killing New York City FC

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Chelsea v Paris Saint-Germain - Yankee Stadium

There are no two ways about it. New York City FC’s meltdown on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls was one of the most embarrassing and least forgivable performances in MLS history.

That NYCFC got blanked 7-0 at home in a derby is shocking enough, but the manner of the team’s capitulation only served to compound horrors.

The Pigeons conceded four times from corner kicks – a feat no other MLS team has achieved or even approached since the league started tracking the stat in 2003. To make matters worse, two of those goals were scored by the 5’9″ Red Bull captain Dax McCarty.

NYCFC could barely string two passes together. Frank Lampard came on as a substitute for his season debut, got booed, and then infuriated supporters with another series of achingly tone-deaf comments after the match.

It was an absolute meltdown. Period. But as a number of NYCFC players – and manager Patrick Vieira – said after the game, one bad performance isn’t going to sink the club’s entire season.

But something else is threatening to do just that. Home form.

A third of the way into the season, the numbers don’t lie. NYCFC has picked up ten points from six road games, and just seven points from seven home matches. It’s a points-per-game split that no other team in MLS even comes close to approaching.

The logic in MLS goes that if a team doesn’t pick up around two points per game at home, it’s hard to make the playoffs. So NYCFC, despite sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, is already fighting an uphill battle to make their first postseason appearance.

So why hasn’t New York City played well at home? Certainly, the club’s struggles in March and April had plenty do with Vieira’s growing pains. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Yankee Stadium’s bandbox dimensions are ill suited to the way NYCFC is equipped to play.

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A viewing of the club’s recent successes – wins at DC United and Portland, and a draw last Wednesday at Toronto – suggests several patterns.

One is that NYCFC want to possess. They want to control games through their midfield, and have a will to play out of the back also unrivaled around the league. The system Vieira has settled on – something of a 4-3-3 – works best when NYCFC is controlling possession.

FROM 2014: Yankee Stadium is not ready for MLS

But at Yankee Stadium, it’s near impossible for a team to play good soccer. For NYCFC to be successful, they need space. To play from defense, for the likes of Andrea Pirlo to operate successfully, and for this team to build its style, they need clean conditions.

Yankee Stadium doesn’t provide it to them. The field is tiny. The surface is terrible.

Signs that Yankee Stadium was going to a problem – competitively, not just aesthetically – arrived almost immediately last year. In their second-ever home game, NYCFC was beaten by Sporting Kansas City on a long throw in an ugly, frustrating game.

The club’s stadium situation has always been an embarrassment for MLS – the result of pushing NYCFC into action before the club was ready, a mistake that the league has been sure not to repeat with David Beckham’s Miami – but now it’s costing its tenant more than ever before.

Perhaps you blame NYCFC for constructing a roster obviously not suited to win at home. Outside of the likes of Pirlo, and eventually Lampard, the club’s move to get Jack Harrison in the SuperDraft was made without regard to the Stadium’s constraints.

But it’s hard to be upset with Vieira for trying to play good soccer. On the road, NYCFC’s style is plenty admirable.

And if the club’s home form this season matched their road form, they’d be winning the Eastern Conference even after the meltdown against the Red Bulls.

Vieira’s first season of professional coaching has been filled with challenges. This is one of the biggest and most frustrating – can he get his team to play down to its home field?

This is a long-term problem. The club has, at various points, intended to build a stadium in Flushing and then in the Bronx. But neither proposal got off the ground. At the moment, there the club has no stadium plan whatsoever.

Remember – a decade ago it was the Red Bulls trying to build an urban stadium, realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, and moving to Harrison, New Jersey.

The bottom line is that NYCFC will most likely be playing at Yankee Stadium well into the next decade. At some point, depending on how results go the rest of the season, the likes of Claudio Reyna and Vieira are going to have to grapple with how to build a winner for their arena.

It’s a challenge that plenty of MLS clubs have faced. The old San Jose Clash took great advantage of the similarly small dimensions at Spartan Stadium, while Caleb Porter had the field at Providence Park widened in the 2013 offseason to better accommodate his own preferred possession style.

Vieira’s team is good enough to make the playoffs this year. But they’re going to need to start consistently winning at home. How they do that, with their roster and their preferred way of playing, is hard to figure.

As of right now, Yankee Stadium is killing NYCFC.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Joey Milio

    May 25, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    I agree I can’t wait until they have there own stadium which is being highly considered. Some are saying its going to be built in queens or Manhattan. In a year or two here on Long Island the cosmos stadium is proposed to be built as well.

  2. Todd

    May 25, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    As a Yankees fan I say get the soccer out! Especially some man c owned mls team going around destroying what could be a fantastic baseball field. Not like this is actually good soccer anyway. Get them out now!

    • Troll

      May 26, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      The Yankees also own NYCFC. By the way, baseball sucks.

      • Carol Casper

        July 1, 2016 at 3:33 am

        Please retreat back under your gloomy bridge and take your ‘football’ team with you. If you don’t like Yankee Stadium why don’t you keep pressuring Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb Steinbrenners to move you out ASAP to your own place. Just the thought that soccer is played in our house gives me the creeps, and seeing your annoying FCNYC merchandise in the Stadium’s Yankee store is nausea inducing.
        Professional soccer is the world’s most boring sport. I’d rather watch golf. And its fans and teams are insufferable with their weird names and fake European attitude. ‘Sporting Kansas City’ my ass!!!!
        Someday soon I hope the Steinbrenners will sell the Yankees to someone who actually understands and cares about baseball (and who’ll finally fire their childhood friend and idol Uncle Joe so we can get a manager who knows something about real leadership and teamwork, and doesn’t have such a nasty bug up his butt about pitchers that he deliberately destroys smart and talented phenoms he doesn’t like -eg Preston Claiborne. Claiborne should’ve sued Girardi personally for destroying his arm and career!
        The little Steinbrenners seemed to think they could drain off the Yankees’ earnings to fund their fantasy soccer empire, Instead their approach has been ruining the Yankees through neglect and unwillingness to understand the difference between old distressed merchandise and real first class ballplayers. And they have the misconception that Cashman knows what he’s doing -which may be true if his actual goal is to earn big kickbacks from his buddy Scott Boras in exchange for making the most dumb-assed expensive bad value deals baseball ever sees.
        So quit grousing about baseball and the stadium and just ‘Hit the road, jackasses!’ You’ll be happier somewhere else and so will we be when you’re gone.

    • Louie V

      May 28, 2016 at 2:13 am

      I’m a Yankees fan and I for one say, baseball has gotten boring. And that field is far from fantastic with those little league dimensions. Also the current Yankee Stadium sucks, nothing but an overpriced shopping center that holds baseball events every summer. And the stadium rules are ridiculous. Oh and the place is falling apart in such little time.

  3. Big McLargehuge

    May 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Good. Let this hollow excuse of what only the least cynical people on earth could even call a soccer club die. I and the rest of America will line up to urinate on its grave.

    Death to plastic football.

  4. NYisRED

    May 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Bulls eat pigeons.

    The blue pigeons are nothing short of turncoats that left a team that was in the area for 20 years and actively tried to build a stadium in the city.

    • NYisBLUE NJisRED

      May 25, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      I’d rather play in Yankee Stadium than play anywhere in New Jersey. At least our location matches the name on our crest. At least the NJ/NY Metrostars recognized New Jersey.

  5. RBNY Fan

    May 25, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    yeah, enough with the pigeons, everyone calls them ” the smurfs”.

  6. Riggs

    May 25, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Fear “writer” STOP with the pigeon crap!

  7. Irving

    May 25, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Please, stop calling us pigeons.

    • Mad About ManU Mourinho

      May 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      They did take quite a sh!t last game.

    • Some body

      May 26, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      I kinda like pigeons, it suits us

  8. IloveLAMPard

    May 25, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    An expansion team in the MLS plays in one of the most famous stadiums in the world…in one of the most congested cities in the world….and you blame the stadium. Man up. It’s the football on the pitch. It’s one game. The team is playing well. Ask any other player if they want to be funded by Man City and the Yankees at the boogie down in the Bronx. Pffff.

  9. Kevin K

    May 25, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Who the hell keeps calling the team the pigeons? No one in he city likes it or says that

    • Christian

      May 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      I was a season ticket holder last year and still keep up with the team and have never heard anyone use the term.

    • TiLoBrown

      May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Why would anyone want to be a pigeon?

      • sac

        May 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

        I feel like pigeons are survivors, though…

    • Pigeons

      May 25, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      There are plenty of people calling nycfc pigeons, in the stadium i have seen people with pigeon hats and shirts.
      if fact it one of small organic things of nycfc, next to chicken bucket.

  10. Christian

    May 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

    It’s funny how people claim NYCFC can’t play well at home but somehow other teams come in and look unstoppable. It’s not the field or the stadium it’s the lack of a good team that hinders NYCFC. Building on players who should be put out to pasture to bring people into the stadium was a bad idea from day one.

    • m o c

      May 25, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      What i got from the article is not that teams can’t play well there, but that small field does not contribute to the style of play that NYCFC is trying to play.

      They (NYCFC) picked up Pirlo who plays best as a deep lying play maker. This is the kind of player you can build a team around. The problem is that to play that style (which he is damn good at), He does not rely on speed, but instead on positioning, space, and time. The small field gives him less room to position himself, less space between him and defenders, and lets the other team pounce on him faster since the former 2 have been taken away.

      Add to that the fact that the skill level in MLS is not the same as his ex-teammates at Juve, he’s just being set up to fail.

      Would NYCFC have a much better home record if they had a better field? Can’t know for sure, but you would damn sure be getting more out of Pirlo.

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