This isn't going to be your usual preview post. New York City's sophomore season kicks off in about an hour. We play the Chicago Fire away. Eleven men wearing blue will take the field. In about an hour, all the questions, all the speculation, everything that surrounded New York City FC over the winter will start vanishing, replaced by diamond-hard facts on the field.
Questions will remain; one game, two games, three isn't enough to dispel them. They hang over Patrick Vieira; they hang over Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard, and Mix Diskerud, and, indeed, over the whole team. They hang in the air, a fog of uncertainty that can only be driven away in the heat of action, as game mounts upon game.
But how different things have been this offseason from the last? We know, much more than last season, what to expect from the grind of the MLS calendar. Gone is our innocence; in its place, expectations that this season must go better than the first, ideally crowned with victories over the Red Bulls and a Historic First Playoff AppearanceTM.
Claudio Reyna and Patrick Vieira have overhauled the squad. MLS lifers like Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert made way for young internationals like Rónald Matarrita, Federico Bravo, and Jack Harrison, leavened by Frederic Brilliant. With a full off-season and preseason, if Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard take MLS seriously - as they repeatedly say they do - now is when they make their mark.
For me, this has been a bittersweet off-season.
When I started HRB back in the spring of 2013, it wasn't with the idea of it being a SB Nation blog. As a historian, I was only thinking of documenting the launch of a brand-new team. At first, it was just me; then the redoubtable Sam Dunn joined me in the fall. While we added some folks throughout the team's first season, this was largely a labor of love by two men who, more than anything, want to see the world's game succeed in the world's city. It was tough going.
We've added a bevy of new writers this season. If HRB is going to succeed in covering the people's game in the people's city, we need lots of people to do it, with lots of different viewpoints. More to the point, new writers add new perspectives. Most of all: this is no longer my blog. It properly belongs to fans of New York City FC, and it should reflect that vast diversity of experiences and views.
It's tough watching something you created grow up; but at the same time, I couldn't be gladder to see how it's grown. For a variety of personal reasons, I compelled myself to take a back seat this off-season. Without going into detail, things were tough for me, but I could always look at the growth of HRB as an unalloyed good; I could also see the new season - a new beginning - coming on the horizon. Ninety days, then sixty, then thirty, and then now. Twenty minutes to go.
I will be a more active presence with the season now beginning, but expect to see less of me than you did last season. I can say this: I cannot wait for that first kick of the ball, that first goal, that first win. And I cannot be happier that you'll be there with us, from the beginning, all the way to the end â hopefully, this time, in December.
That's what a new season brings: a clean slate. New Hope. A chance to dream again. Join us, won't you?