Former U.S. players, coach say NYC FC home in Yankee Stadium not ideal:

IMAGE, GOAL.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Brooklyn, N.Y.— For all of the good vibes New York City FC tried to turn out during Monday’s press conference to announce the club’s temporary home at Yankee Stadium, questions still persist on if the arrangement can work.

Both Yankee and NYC FC representatives insisted there would be no problems with scheduling, converting the field or the playing surface. Playing in a baseball or non-soccer-specific stadium is nothing new to Major League Soccer.

However, a concrete plan for a soccer specific stadium was supposed to be a requirement to buy into the league, and it seems NYC FC got a pass on that criteria. While Yankee Stadium may be the most celebrated arena in the country, it will bring it’s share of hardship in the realm of soccer.

“I’ve played in a couple of baseball stadiums, specifically CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City. It’s not ideal,” former U.S. Men’s National Team defender and KICKTV personality Jimmy Conrad told EOS at NY FEST. “There’s going to be one sideline that isn’t that close.”

From the renderings of what the pitch will look like, the seats behind where home plate would be for the Yankees are very far from the action. The first block of seats may also be tarped off. The best seats in the Yankee Stadium soccer pitch appear to be behind the end lines.

“I’ve played in venues like that early in the MLS,” said former U.S. U-20 head coach and American Samoa National Team head coach Thomas Rongen. “Rochester was one of them if you played them in the [U.S.] Open Cup, but as a player and a coach, you’re not thrilled with the circumstances because it’s not going to be ideal playing circumstance and you’re worried a little about injury as well.”

Temporary field aside, Conrad was a little more critical on where the expansion club is at the current moment in their search for a permanent home.

“I was hoping the infrastructure was going to be a little bit further along, that they would have a stadium set already planned,” he said. “That’s a little disappointing that they kind of put the cart before the horse.”

Despite their misgivings over the arrangement, both Rongen and Conrad agree that the situation is liveable in the short term.

On the field, concerns over the conditions of the pitch could very well be eased by modern technology. “I think with the modern groundskeepers nowadays, they can probably create a surface that is very playable,” Rongen concedes.

Off the field, there is also reason to believe things will eventually fall into place. For Conrad, who knows the ins and outs of MLS quite well, NYC FC have sound investors as well as experienced managers in Jason Kries and Claudio Reyna who could help guide the club towards their ultimate goal.

It’s a sentiment former USMNT defender Tony Sanneh echoed.

“To have the New York Yankees and Manchester City behind it, they are class organizations in the sports world and to have them operating in the confines in MLS adds value and quality ownership,” he said. “It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s probably better than playing on turf fields that there are in some other places. It’s not perfect, but I’m sure they’ve done all the things to make it the most soccer-specific as they can and the grass I’m sure 90% will be impeccable.”

While the focus on landing a soccer specific home remains on NYC FC, Rongen is quick to point out the latest crop of MLS expansion candidates, save for Orlando, are all in the same boat.

“You like to think they eventually will get a soccer-specific stadium like David Beckham is trying in Miami. [I’m] a little surprised Atlanta came out of nowhere, but it’s good. It’s a strong ownership group, they’re obviously going to play out of an American football stadium, a billIon dollars … it should be nice,” said Rongen.

“If they can capture a great crowd and get 50,000 a game like Seattle does, it’s a no-brainer, but if you average 10, 12, 15 or 18 in a big stadium, it might not create the just atmosphere you really want for soccer games.”

While all three former National Team stars agree that Yankee Stadium is not an ideal situation, they also are in agreement that a successful NYC FC can be a game-changer, not only for the City, but the league as a whole.

“They have all these pieces, now it’s just going to take some time and people are going to have to suck up the bad before it gets really good,” Conrad says. “Once it gets really good, it’s going to be amazing because when you get full Red Bulls supporters against NYC FC supporters, you’re really going to get that rivalry that I think everybody really craves in this area.”

  • Seems like the typical spin “It’s no ideal but” & they seem to get a pass because oh it’s the Yankees & Manchester City. Enough already, this was not what was intended for this NYC franchise & it seems like amateur hour all the time with this situation.

  • Dave from Dix Hills

    What sports punk said

  • A few things. Unless they fill the whole thing, the atmosphere in the stadium won’t be very good. Playing in a huge stadium like Yankee Stadium with 15-20k people will lose that intimate feel you can get in soccer specific stadiums. So I think that is a concern. Second, the field conditions have to be a question mark. They had a couple friendlies there before and the field conditions weren’t ideal. Third, they said it takes 3 days to go from baseball to soccer, or soccer to baseball. If that is the case, NYCFC will only be able to play home games when the Yankees are on a long road trip, since baseball and soccer seasons are during the same time of year. Scheduling will be a problem.

    P.S. Something tells me that they’ll be in Yankee Stadium for longer than 3 years with construction issues in NYC. Heck, the USMNT may win a World Cup before NYCFC moves into their Soccer Specific Stadium.

  • Gruff and Manly Bob

    “If they can capture a great crowd and get 50,000 a game like Seattle does, it’s a no-brainer, but if you average 10, 12, 15 or 18 in a big stadium, it might not create the just atmosphere you really want for soccer games.”

    The Atlanta stadium is going to have a curtain roof which will appears till give it a nice SSS feel for MLS games. google for the vid Matthew. The only beef w/ that plan is turf.

  • Gruff and Manly Bob

    Yeah the stadium situation sux and MLS may have gotten themselves in hot water by “requiring it” Orlando entities are considering now blocking their stadium based on fraudulent requirement statements. MLS should have never issued a blanket condition like that w/o saying their could be exceptions. Now in NYC’s case, I understand the ownership, the TV deal hell a radio deal already, combined w/ the NYC marketing potential. But cmon Garber just come out and say those things. Those are legit things to consider.