Harrison, N.J. – An announced crowd of 4,396 fans ventured into enemy territory to watch New York City FC dispatch Costa Rican club San Carlos 1-0, 6-3 on aggregate, at Red Bull Arena (yes, home of their cross-city rivals).
And far be it for me to cast doubt on the attendance figures — but suffice it to say that if that number is correct then I won’t be going into the crowd size estimation business anytime soon.
Last night’s 1-0 scoreline did not reflect the Blues dominance. However with coach Ronny Deila choosing to rest top striker Hebert, the “home” team waited 41 minutes to convert that dominance to something tangible, aka, the lone goal of the match, coming from center back Alexander Callens.
The powerful header was Callen’s second goal of the tie and essentially ended any hopes San Carlos may have harbored regarding a comeback.
Deila Shoves Opposing Player!
The Costa Ricans did not take well to their impending exit from the tournament and tempers flared when substitute Gary Mackay-Steven was taken out with a vicious tackle directly in front of new NYC coach Ronny Deila.
Deila is known as an emotional leader and he quickly jumped in to shove Julio Cruz away from his prone player.
“I overreacted a little, of course. I reacted because of the tackle. It was three, four seconds too late. I just instinctively went to protect my player, I got a little scared that he would get injured but I calmed down quick. It was a little bit of South American emotions there. But again, maybe I overreacted a little bit but it’s good to have some energy out there.”
NYCFC will be stepping up in class when they face Mexican power Tigres UNAL, who needed a stoppage-time header from goalkeeper Nahel Guzman to dodge elimination at the hands of El Salvadoran minnows Alianza.
Wherever I Lay My Hat, That’s My Home
Leg one of the Quarterfinals will be played on March 10 – 12, with the second leg taking place between March 17 and 19. But where will NYCFC host their Mexican opponents?
An NYCFC spokesman noted that Yankee Stadium is a possible, but far from likely, venue for the quarters but due to scheduling cannot be used in subsequent rounds should NYCFC advance. Citi Field is a no go for the quarterfinals but may be an option for the semifinals or finals if NYC can get that far.
And Red Bull Arena remains in the mix.
So, I’m glad we cleared that up.
What do the Fans Think?
The fans can be said to have voted with their feet by staying away in droves Wednesday evening, but I thought I would ask a few of the faithful that chose to go behind enemy lines to support their team what they make of the stadium uncertainty.
For this entirely unscientific poll, High Press Soccer chatted three random NYCFC fans heading home from the match, beginning at the Harrison PATH station and continuing on to the city bound train.
I asked my informal focus group of John, Mike, and Ahmed, how they felt about playing in their rival’s stadium and the answer I got was – not entirely thrilled but not too bad.
In fact, John offered, “The playoff game should have been played out here, rather than Citi Field while Mike added, “it (RBA) is a proper Stadium,” with the caveat “it’s really hard to get out here.
Ahmed was conflicted. “I thought because they (NYCFC) don’t really have a home, they have to do stuff like this. In order for this team to be taken seriously, in order for this league to be taken seriously, they gotta fix stuff like this.”
Ahmed continued, “I’m saying, we want to support our team but coming to Harrison, New Jersey to see them play at Red Bull Arena is ridiculous.” But for one night at least, Ahmed said, “I thought it was an okay experience and it was cool.”