Hudson River Blue: Since you just reported a widely-viewed "Get Me In There" segment featuring NYCFC, tell us about your recent experiences with the team and its fans.
Susannah Collins: I had the best time on that shoot! From the fans, the players, the front office, everyone was so accommodating and welcoming. I got a sense that all parties involved were excited to showcase what the club is all about and that enthusiasm was contagious. I really think we captured that in the episode and I’m so pleased.
HRB: You cover not just NYCFC, but all of MLS, and fans of many other teams have also been featured in the "Get Me In There" series. How do you see NYCFC's supporters as similar to, or different from, those of other MLS teams? How does our fan culture compare?
SC: What struck me the most about NYCFC fans was how strong of an identity is already in place despite the fact the team is only in their second season.
For this shoot, I had a chance to speak with Jason Hernandez and Tommy McNamara, both NYC natives, and there is an immense amount of pride that exists in not only representing their city, but also the fact that they are on the ground floor of this soccer movement in the Bronx, and that is a sentiment that is certainly shared by the fans as well. You can see that kind of community and passion amongst other fan bases but what makes NYCFC fans unique is that they’ve been able to create this pretty remarkable fan culture in a very short period of time. These fans were hungry for soccer in the Bronx and it shows.
HRB: In the time you've been working with the MLS, what has been your perception of the pro soccer's traction in the United States, particularly here in New York?
SC: Well, I’ve only been with MLS for a few months, but the traction is remarkable, actually. I love going into bars in the city and seeing them show the NYCFC or Red Bulls games, and that seems to be happening more and more. You’ll notice people wearing the hats or jerseys and it’s incredibly gratifying. I was on the subway the other day and I overheard two kids in a conversation talking about David Villa, which was pretty cool. As soccer continues to grow in the States, MLS will be a direct beneficiary of that. It’s exciting.
HRB: Right now, NYCFC and the Red Bulls have identical records, and are essentially tied atop the East. If the season ended today, and both won their second-round series, they'd face off in the conference championship. Some say the rivalry is overblown, while others believe it's one of the best in MLS, or even all of soccer. What do you think?
SC: First of all, I think rivalries are awesome for the league. Those are the narratives that become the most compelling to watch and the most fun to tell so I think it’s great that this Hudson River Derby has become less of a one-sided affair this season. And the rivalry is definitely real - just take a look at the comments section anytime we post a NYCFC or Red Bulls video! It’s littered with people claiming "New York is Blue" or "New York is Red". Those fan bases do NOT like each other. The fact that both teams are successful this year is such a bonus, and it’s fun as heck to watch these two sides go at it. Do I think it’s the best rivalry in MLS? It’s still so new. I’d give it a few years. But it certainly has the potential to be.
HRB: What's it like to be an MLS broadcaster?
SC: It’s exciting. I’ve been a fan of soccer for years so having this opportunity to cover it within a league that’s growing so rapidly is special. Not only do I really enjoy the games but I love learning about these players. I’m a story teller, it’s what I love to do. And there are so many unbelievable stories to be told in this league that we’ve yet to hear. To be able to open people’s eyes to some of these guys and their unique journeys to MLS is a privilege. And yes, it’s a long season, it’s a lot of hard work, but ultimately, this league is just a lot of fun to cover.
HRB: In your opinion, what has NYCFC's greatest strength been so far this season? It's greatest weakness? How do you see the team's chances in the playoffs?
SC: Well it certainly helps when you have an on-form David Villa and a healthy Frank Lampard on the roster! For me, though, a huge amount of credit needs to go to Patrick Vieira. When you have those big name DP’s, you need a guy in charge who commands respect, and Patrick Vieira certainly does that. I appreciate the fact that he’s been able to get the most out of his big-name players while also overseeing the development of the young guys like Jack Harrison and Khiry Shelton. Harrison, in particular, has been a revelation this season. Defensively, they’re still giving up too many goals but I do think this is a team that can go on a deep post-season run.
Many thanks to Susannah for playing ball with Hudson River Blue! You can find her on Twitter @susannahcollins.