Folks, I'm hurtin'. Not suffering, though-- twelve months ago, we'd be publishing complaints about losses, not draws. We won't let ourselves lose that sense of perspective.
But even so, I am hurtin'.
Getting a draw can be a relief on a lot of occasions, particularly last year's home comeback against Chicago, in which Khiry Shelton slotted his first MLS goal in dramatic fashion. When you steal the point, it may as well be a win. You go from taking no points to taking one. But it really is worse to give up the lead. You're starting to taste all three points. Your team played well enough to earn them. But then, one of history's many Kevin Molinos steps in and chews up your three points, spitting them back out as just a single stupid little one.
It burns us, precious.
To the point: let's examine all the times New York City held a lead this year and blew it:
|DATE||OPPONENT||NYCFC LED...||FINAL SCORE||CONCEDED IN STOPPAGE TIME?|
|March 13th||vs. Toronto||2-0||2-2||Nope.|
|March 26th||vs. New England||1-0||1-1||Nope.|
|April 27th||vs. Montreal||1-0||1-1||Yep! I threw up in my mouth.|
|May 18th||@ Toronto||1-0||1-1||Nope.|
|May 29th||vs. Orlando City||2-0||2-2||Yep! I'm dying inside.|
These splits are just ugly. Four blown leads at home. Four!
If New York City had won a single one of these games in which they led, they would be currently tied on points with Philadelphia at the top of the table. If they had won two -- perhaps the two in which they were ahead at ninety minutes and gave it away in the dying moments -- you can do the math.
That feeling right there? That's the difference between sole possession of first place and whatever you want to call NYCFC's current situation: 4W-6D-4L, underwater on goal differential, and only two points clear of eighth place.
We've written extensively here at Hudson River Blue about the particular dynamics of New York City's struggles at home. It comes down to this: the narrow dimensions of the pitch, a third of which is covered by dodgy temporary grass laid on top of hot dirt, favor a merciless high-pressing style of play that the Blues don't have the personnel to run. Patrick Vieira calls it "ruthlessness," but whatever we're calling it today, NYCFC just can't bring it at Yankee Stadium.
Come to think of it, ya know who does have the perfect balls-to-walls playing style for the idiosyncrasies of the South Bronx pitch?
The Red Bulls.
At this point in the season -- we're just over 40% of the way through the scheduled slate -- it's overwhelmingly clear that, with all other variables being equal, New York City has a better chance of beating Opponent X on the road than they do at home. How nuts is that? In terms of points in the table, that fact may not be enough to derail the season.
But practically speaking, how in pluperfect hell are you going to attract the biggest, baddest home crowds possible if the team can't even win at home with a 2-0 lead?
Well, here's the solution:
From the old Negro League days up through the present independent minor leagues, plenty of pro and semi-pro baseball teams have played purely as traveling teams with no home stadium, period: let's note the Pennsylvania Road Warriors, the Frontier Greys, and the 1994 Seattle Mariners after the Kingdome's roof collapsed.
We're told that, in terms of the grueling effect on the team, barnstorming is something of a health hazard. And, of course, there's the slight problem of what to do with 20,000+ season ticket holders. But isn't winning more important than anything?