In their third time of asking, New York City once again came up short in a local derby.
The result, however, does no justice on account of the doggedly dedicated fan base that further galvanized itself in the face of yet another setback on the field.
We don't know if this team is good enough to make the playoffs. Not yet, anyway. But we do know this: the state of the supporters is strong.
It was no small amount of dedication that produced a couple of tremendous displays in the bleachers. First, section 238's Hearts of Oak supporters group went right for Red Bull's jugular:
"Leipzig...Salzburg...MetroStars -- Killing Soccer Since '04" (Photo: Michael J. Benham)
As one fan said on Sunday, "I'd rather be Man City B than Red Bull C."
The combined resources of the Third Rail Supporters' Club in sections 236 and 237 are formidable, and they did not disappoint on Sunday. In what was the culmination of dozens of hours of work by dozens of loyal volunteers, the final product was equal parts venom and wit:
PlayBull! Get it?? (Photo: Third Rail SC)
I was lucky enough to be swallowed up by the giant playbill as it unfurled following the singing of the national anthem. Let's re-live the grand ascension!
It was mere moments before the Bronx Blues opened their account-- in the sixth minute, a corner kick produced a bouncer that Tommy McNamara played off his chest with the cool grace of a saint.
Luckily, our cameras were rolling.
Great goal! But we could have done without the smoke bombs. Smoke has been a point of tremendous contention among the ever-expanding mass of NYCFC supporters. It's been an absolute chore getting the ranks to fall in line, and has pit many identifying as "ultras" against those in positions of leadership looking to improve relations between the supporters and the club's front office. The challenges are ongoing -- smoke isn't permitted at Yankee Stadium, yet the club uses it in their advertising, clouding their messaging significantly -- and there have been unfortunate causalties.
Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Brendan Farrell. You may remember his name following his ridiculous, nonsensical arrest outside Yankee Stadium following last month's 2-2 draw against Chicago. On that day, he was put in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct simply for being a soccer fan. He was not violent, he did not resist, and he was not inciting riotous behavior. The disorderly charge has officially been dropped, but there's still a lot of work to be done vis-a-vis the relationship between police/security and the supporters. Case in point:
(Photo: Joseph Chadwick via Facebook)
Yes, that's Mr. Farrell himself being escorted out of the bleachers by NYPD following the use of blue smoke you just saw in the previous video. There's a big problem here, though:
Once again, he didn't do it.
I was taking the video you just watched standing right next to Mr. Farrell when we both got bombarded by the blue deluge. His own scarf was burned by the thing, which was placed right at our feet by an as-yet-unknown perpetrator following McNamara's goal.
Hmmm, NYPD, why would a guy burn his own scarf? #SoUltra...
How many times is the same guy going to be rung up by security and law enforcement personnel for acts he most certainly did not commit?
Between the unfortunate security situation and the maddening 3-1 result, it didn't always feel like the very best of times that evening in the Bronx. The mood among the fans, however, is considerably healthy. The togetherness and determination is palpable, and extends beyond the boundaries of individual supporter groups and social clubs. I mean, you'd be a fool not to get excited about this:
Get your popcorn ready. (Photo: Hudson River Blue)
Indeed, there is still a hell of a lot to play for: the playoffs. The final Hudson River Derby in August. More excuses to drink beer and yell. Hell, good old-fashioned pride. We're still learning what this team is made of, but there's no need to hold similar reservations about the burgeoning supporter culture.
From where I sit, the forecast calls for blue skies.