The game at Yankee Stadium against Chicago provided a glimmer of hope.
On that beautiful night, a tie felt an awful lot like a win, and my wife and I were energetic as we took the subway home, talking with another couple as we walked from the train station to our building, and then with two other season ticket holders in our lobby. As with previous home games, more than 20,000 people turned out, and there was a sense of community inside the stadium and outside of it -- and quite a bit of excitement about the team turning itself around in time to take a point.
This past Saturday night, that feeling was gone. NYCFC's on-field performance was simply dismal. It never seemed as if our side could claim the game, thanks to a slow, porous defense, a lack of forward ball movement, and few decent shots on goal. Only a small group of fans showed up at the bar I visited, Woodwork, an NYCFC Pub Partner. Most were watching the NBA or NHL playoffs, mesmerized by the Chicago Blackhawks and Golden State Warriors. At least the bar threw us a few free beers to soak our troubles in!
Maybe the low NYCFC fan turnout was because it was the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, and maybe other Pub Partners attracted more fans -- but it's at least partially a result of the team's slump.
During the game, I had a great conversation with one insightful fan, Wesley, a fellow season ticket holder and Brooklynite. He echoed what I've heard other fans say lately -- about staying loyal to the team, and not expecting too much from an expansion franchise -- but with a twist: he's not concerned about himself, but about others giving up.
Wesley believes in choosing a team and sticking with it through thick and thin -- if you can't be with a team through its losses, don't come around for its wins -- but he rightfully acknowledges that others may not feel that way. Certainly, there's a novelty to NYCFC, and now that some time has gone by, with so little to celebrate on the field, "borderline" fans may start wondering why they're still paying attention.
That said, there's still cause for plenty of hope. The supporter clubs are strong, the flood of positive messages posted by NYCFC fans across social media continues to flow, and the crowds at Yankee Stadium have remained sizable and enthusiastic.
With any team, over time, change is inevitable. Frank Lampard, who this weekend scored the decisive goal in Man City's final game of the season, is soon headed to NYCFC, and as Chris Wheeler put it in The Daily Mail, "there is little doubt that New York City FC are acquiring a player who can still shine at the highest level."
At some point, a third DP will show up, and the last I checked, Sheikh Mansour isn't exactly a poor man (I recently met a Man City fan who grew up in Manchester, who told me how lucky NYCFC is to have the ownership it does, and I believe him). Who will arrive and help Lampard, Villa, and friends save the day? Didier Drogba, or another of the many rumored signings? No matter who it is, he's sure to be welcomed with open arms, and to provide a lot of excitement.
Fingers crossed for a good showing against Houston on Saturday, and in the games ahead of us against teams near us in the standings -- like Montreal and Philadelphia -- before we face powerhouses like DC, Dallas, and New England. Regardless of the results, I'm sticking with the team, and I look forward to meeting more fans like Wesley, who will do the same, and watch the franchise grow and mature.