Happy anniversary New York City FC! It’s been exactly one full year since the club played a match at their official home field, Yankee Stadium. If you’re having a hard time remembering last week, let alone last year well that’s just 2020 for you. So hop in that Delorean, step on the gas, and get that bad boy to 88 MPH. Let’s travel back to September 25, 2019. Back then, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world, NYCFC was in the middle of Atlanta United 4-1 beat down. Our favorite Romanian designated player Alexandru Mitrita’s first half hat trick, basically helped secure first place in the Eastern Conference for NYCFC.
To say that a lot has changed would be an understatement. Since that glorious day in September of 2019 the club has traveled near and far for a home. NYCFC has played a home match at Citi Field during the 2019 MLS Playoffs. Red Bull Arena hosted NYCFC’s two home matches during CONCACAF Champions League. Disney’s Wide World of Sports became every MLS club’s home in July and August of this year.
Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back tournament NYCFC is back at Red Bull Arena again. This was in large part due to the start of the Major League Baseball season and Yankee Stadium being unavailable. One could argue that in 2020 Red Bull Arena has become NYCFC’s de facto home field much to the chagrin of supporters.
There are positives and negatives to the Red Bull Arena experience. It doesn’t feel “good” to play home matches at the home of your heated rival. NYCFC doesn’t have the “home field advantage” of playing on a pitch with a unique size. There’s a level of creature comfort players probably experience preparing in their usual setting.
On the other hand, there are some benefits to playing at Red Bull Arena. We haven’t heard any complaints from NYCFC players or visitors about the condition of the pitch. Red Bull Arena gives NYCFC a permanent home base and doesn’t force the club to wander from stadium to stadium. NYCFC hasn’t played poorly at Red Bull Arena. Through six matches this season the club is 4-3-0 with their only loses against the Red Bulls, Tigres of LigaMX, and most recently Toronto FC. Two of those matches (RBNY and TFC) were 0-1 loses on questionable decisions made by referees. From a selfish fan’s perspective, the viewing experience is vastly superior on television in Red Bull Arena.
Major League Soccer and NYCFC just this week announced phase 3 of the return to play schedule. To no one’s surprise, Red Bull Arena will continue to host NYCFC matches versus FC Cincinnati, DC United, New England Revolution, and Montreal Impact. The one notable exception is a possible change of venue for NYCFC’s November 1st home match against the Red Bulls. According to a September 22nd tweet from reporter, Glenn Crooks, Yankees Stadium could be a possible location for the final Harlem River Derby of 2020.
It’s unlikely that fans will be allowed to attend any matches through the rest of the season, especially in New York City. So this begs the question, do we even want NYCFC to play at Yankee Stadium this season? What is the benefit of playing on a uniquely sized pitch when our own club hasn’t played on it in over a year? NYCFC will have already played a total of 11 matches at Red Bull Arena before the derby. Perhaps it’s best to deal with the current home field situation we’re stuck in and defeat the Red Bulls on their own turf.
With 2020 being “2020” a change in venue isn’t going to change the performance of this team under Ronny Deila. Staying in Red Bull Arena might be the most stable thing this club can do, and it may be best to wait until 2021 to return to Yankee Stadium. We’ve already waited 365 days, and we might have another 150 or so to go. Eventually we will get to see our Boys in Blue back in the Bronx. I think we can all agree it will have been a very long time coming.