It was the Hempstead Heartbreaker.
Twelve months ago, a heavily rotated New York City FC team flew out to a 2-0 lead on the road at the plainly mid-tier college lacrosse stadium that houses the easily forgotten New York Cosmos. Kwadwo Poku had scored the first competitive brace in the Blues' brief history. Not only did Jason Kreis's team appear poised to earn its first-ever win in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but it was set to do so without the services of David Villa, who earned himself a rest on the night thanks to a crowded league schedule.
But you all know what happened.
It was the first time New York City FC blew a 2-0 lead. Of course, it was far from the last. But is the first cut ever not the deepest?
It wasn't just a loss; it had to happen in an agonizing, excruciating penalty shootout. It wasn't just a loss; it was a feather in the cap of an otherwise irrelevant team absolutely begging for a regional rival.
It wasn't just a loss, which is why a big, fat W on Wednesday night at Fordham University in the Bronx will feel like something more than just another win.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING FOR
- Eirik Johansen in the house? Last summer's Hempstead Heartbreaker was the first -- and currently only -- NYCFC start for the young Norwegian goalkeeper. With Josh Saunders struggling mightily in MLS play, will Vieira show the same faith in the rangy former Manchester City EDS man that Kreis showed a year ago?
- Fordham Frolics: Yes, this is technically a home game for New York City, but you're in luck! It's not at Yankee Stadium, which means that the Blues actually have a reasonable chance to win! Coffey Field, the 7,000-seat, field-turf'd home of the Fordham Rams football and soccer programs, presents a whole new flavor for NYCFC. This is a win-win for local fans, because not only is it a release from the dodgy, nigh-unwinnable confines of Yankee Stadium, but it also means you get to avoid that unsavory trip into Long Island. Ick.
- New-look Cosmos? Gio Savarese's team doesn't look quite like the one that prevailed on penalties a year ago. Raúl and Senna retired from the game, although the latter didn't appear in that NYCFC clash. Walter Restrepo plies his trade with the Philadelphia Union now. Mads Stokkelien went back to Norway. Former Venezuela international Juan Arango has arrived to pick up some of the scoring slack, while DC United castoff Jairo Arrieta brings additional attacking depth to Savarese's side. It needs to be said that New York City has far, far better players than the Cosmos. But this won't be a cake walk. Not at all.
- Derby Daze: What's with all these other regional teams trying to force their preferred rivalry nicknames down NYCFC fans' collective throats? The Red Bulls, of course, insist on calling the Red vs. Blue matchup "The New York Derby," which is clearly meant to boost up the utterly weak Red Bulls brand-- if you're in New Jersey, it's to your benefit to associate yourself with New York as much as possible. Sorry, boys, it's the Hudson River Derby from where we sit. But how about the Cosmos? Their insistence on calling this matchup the East River Derby likewise props up their massively weak and ineffectual brand. Everybody wants a piece of the Five Boroughs. But there's still only one professional team there. Sorry, guys. Speaking of which:
- The NASL is a farce! I laugh when I hear Person X or Fan Y refer to the Cosmos as "champions." Champions of what, exactly? This current iteration of the NASL has always looked like a sneering ploy by the corrupt Traffic Sports Marketing organization to co-opt the emotions and nostalgia associated with the old North American Soccer League, which has nothing to do with the new version, just as these current Cosmos have nearly nothing to do with the old club of Pele, Chinaglia, and Randy Horton's sick afro. Honestly, without the Cosmos' wealthy owners, the entire league would collapse within two years. Really, the whole league is likely to collapse anyway, because the Cosmos are the only NASL team that isn't bound to leave for MLS. Montreal Impact left. Minnesota United is leaving. Indy Eleven may not be far behind. I have my own problems with the economics and administration of MLS, but compared to this unfunny joke we call the NASL, Major League Soccer is practically Serie A.