Last weekend's 1-0 loss to visiting Portland extended New York City's winless streak to five games. Injuries, call-ups, and general expansion team malaise have catalyzed a sense of apprehensiveness around the new club. As we heard from the Philly Phaithful at SB Nation's Brotherly Game, however, these challenges are nothing new in Major League Soccer.
This week, we asked Chris Rifer of Stumptown Footy to give his best take on the life of an expansion team. The Timbers had only logged four seasons in MLS before this one, and managed more losses than wins in their first two years. And in year three? They made the Western Conference Finals.
Indeed, blue skies are perhaps not just probable, but inevitable. On the eve of NYC's next match -- a road tilt against Chicago -- here's what Chris had to tell us:
"For supporters of an expansion side, collective resilience and patience is everything. The honeymoon is great. Enjoy the heck out of it for the first few months of this season. The Timbers winning their first five home games of 2011 is still one of my favorite periods in Portland’s MLS history.
But it also comes to an end, and eventually the reality of being an expansion side sets in. Goodness knows there were some pretty empty performances from the Timbers in their first two years in MLS, and for a time it didn’t seem like it would get better.
The reason is this: The NYCFC organization is literally learning to do everything at the same time. Though Jason Kreis is an incredibly well credentialed MLS coach, he’s learning how to coach this team. Although the front office certainly has some prominent names in U.S. and international soccer, it’s still learning how to run a club in this league. It even gets down to supporters’ relations - although there are certainly people in the NYCFC front office who have dealt with fans before, they’re still learning how best to work with these supporters.
There are going to be gut punches along the way on all three of those fronts (and probably a few more). But over the course of a couple years, the NYCFC organization will start to get things sorted out. That's where the collective resilience and patience comes in.
The "collective" part is the most important. Those gut punches are a lot easier to take when supporters are united in a feeling that they’re a big part of building something for the long term.
I admit I was really skeptical about NYCFC. I thought the league was trying to manufacture something that can’t be manufactured, and I thought the front office was out of its depth in managing the conflicting interests between running a top-tier, competitive soccer club and working under a parent club across an ocean.
I remain concerned about the latter, but I’m not skeptical about the former anymore.
The reason is that it seems, at least from a perspective 3,000 miles away, that supporters have sort of made this their own. So it looks to me like NYCFC supporters have it - whatever "it" is. The challenge is just carrying that through what will likely be a little bit of a roller-coaster next couple years.
But, from what I’ve seen, I don’t think that’s too much of a worry."
Thanks to Chris Rifer and Stumptown Footy for breakin' it down for us in the run up to New York City's next, best chance to break their five-match winless run.
Stay tuned throughout the season for more expansion team wisdom!