If you support New York City, you've heard it the jibes and jeers: Diet Man City. Man City West. Man City USA. Chivas 2.0. Chivas NYC. Those japes started flying the second it became clear that Manchester City - excuse me, City Football Group - purchased the second New York team, back in the spring of 2013. When the name and colors were revealed in May of 2013, those sneers had a little more relevance: [INSERT CITY NAME] City FC, check; sky blue, navy blue, and white, check.
Surely not, we all thought. MLS isn't going to repeat the exact same thing they attempted to do with Chivas...are they? No, no they're not. True enough, everyone said the right things.
"New York is a legendary sports town, as well as a thriving global city with a rapidly expanding soccer fan-base," said Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City Football Club, who will oversee the process of filling top New York City FC leadership positions in the weeks to come. "In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride."
Heck, they even did some of them: they hired area native Claudio Reyna as their sporting director, for example, on that same day.
"Finding the right person for this role and getting him in place from the start was a priority," said Soriano. "The football culture of New York City FC will be built from this decision, and we believe Claudio is the man who uniquely understands what New York soccer should mean, and how it can benefit from the relationship with Manchester City FC."
That continued through the summer: at every instance, New York City insisted that they weren't the second coming of Chivas USA, that this time, things would be different. Signing David Villa was one example. The badge reveal was another; contrary to the fears of so many people who thought New York City would simply repurpose Manchester City's badge, they instead came up with a gorgeous emblem that was unique to the city and team.
That feels so long ago, now.
To me, the real test of whether or not New York City were an "evolutionary" version of Chivas USA was how they dealt with Frank Lampard's...situation. Would they let Manchester City keep him? Or would he join the team he allegedly signed with? If they let Manchester City extend his loan, how long would that extension be? One month, two? Or the end of the Premier League season?
We know now. We know because Manchester City announced it, with all the airs of an English peer dismissing the help, not even acknowledging New York City; New York City's announcement, pleading in its pathos, saying that everyone concerned were "in ongoing dialogue to create the best outcome for all."
Last night, Alicia Rodriguez wrote an essay outlining the similarities and differences between Chivas USA and New York City; you ought to read it. It was a excellent distillation of those points. She knows; she covered Chivas, all the way to their quiet, lonesome shuffle to the grave.
No matter what you think about the decision to have Lampard stay at Man City after the start of the 2015 MLS season, we honestly don't know yet whether this is Chivas USA all over again. Are there warning signs? Yes, there definitely are. But does that mean NYCFC is going to be Chivas USA, Jr? I mean, a lot of people would have to be colossally stupid to let that happen twice in quick succession. I'm not saying it's impossible, but any number of decisions can prevent NYCFC from being a weak subsidiary to a large foreign club.
I wrote last night: If CFG want New York City to be an actual club, with the potential to be a world-class club - as Ferran Soriano said when the team was announced -- then it needs to be a fully independent and separate entity with the ability to compete with Manchester City. But that's not what City Football Group want. What they want is a vehicle to do three things:
- Spread the Manchester City "brand", and get new fans for that team;
- Helping Manchester City with player development and financial fair play compliance;
- Helping Manchester City with the club's aims and aspirations.
That's it. By extending Lampard's loan, we know now that CFG will never make a decision that hurts Manchester City while helping New York City (or Melbourne City, for that matter). City Football Group had an opportunity to prove otherwise, and they didn't. If Manchester City are in need of strikers, there's nothing stopping them from snatching David Villa up starting on Saturday, when the transfer window opens. Indeed, Manchester City fans are already asking for that to happen, demanding that New York City sacrifice for the "benefit" of the "family".
Exactly how is this different from Chivas USA, again?
Even the press strategy is the same: news released late on the evening of a major holiday, with no way to question club officials.
And New York City fans are supposed to be happy with this? If you are, fine. I know that a lot of them are not. If the history of Chivas USA is any guide, we know how this story ends. The infuriating part is that no one seems to have learned from that - so far.