Because of that game. That game. Sunday, March 15, 2015. NYCFC 2, New England 0.
New York City’s color commentator for its regional TV broadcasts on YES, Ian Joy, didn’t call that particular game. It was on ESPN. But the effect that massive Sunday had on him — and the whole bloody lot of us still in the infant stages of figuring out how the heck to cover New York’s newest team — is one not soon forgotten.
“When you start a franchise like this, you never know quite what to expect, and I think watching that game we realized there— and I think all the fans and the supporters, and the media realized recognized immediately that New York City Football Club meant business,” Joy told Hudson River Blue on a Tuesday afternoon phone call. “They were here to do some damage in Major League Soccer, and that was an opportunity for everyone in the league to just look at this team and sense that they’re for real.”
And for all their struggles in that inaugural year, particularly in the defensive half, Joy saw the fundamental essence of what the team would grow to be on that day, all these various Mix Diskeruds and Adam Nemecs and Josh Williamses notwithstanding.
“Seeing the stadium getting opened up a little bit bigger, the people inside the stadium, the atmosphere being electrifying, the goals going in, David Villa being at his best, it was the perfect example as to how you should start a franchise,” he said.
“If you’re gonna spend DP money, you’d better get a good DP, and that’s what David Villa has been for the club. When I looked at that performance, that victory, the supporters... To see how much the supporters had bought into it, it made my hair stand up, and it made me love this whole project even more.”
Here and now, it’s not all bread and roses for New York City, unfortunately. Coming off a trying four-game road trip that saw the team take a win, a draw, and two losses, NYCFC might do well to count its blessings heading into tonight.
“I think the team can be reasonably proud with the fact that they’ve actually performed very well over the four games,” Joy said.
“I would say that Patrick [Vieira] has to take some responsibility for the defeat against Real Salt Lake... He held up his hand and said that he made too many changes. But Dallas, it was a good performance. Orlando City was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen this club do, especially away from home. Atlanta United—it’s not as if we played terrible. We made some bad mistakes for a small period of time and saw us 3-0 down, but we started the game positively, and reasonably played well when you consider possession, keeping the ball, creating chances.”
We’ve always said here on Hudson River Blue that any draw on the road in MLS — any draw — is a good result. You’ve got to count your blessings given the tremendous travel demands that North America imposes, as well as the challenging weather conditions (it snowed in Utah; it was 85 degrees in Atlanta). With that in mind, four points in four games isn’t shabby. Not by a damn sight.
“Away from home, we did a good job, and I think the team can be relatively proud of that,” Joy said.
Looking ahead to tonight’s game against New England — who are winless in their last nine road games dating back to 2016 — you’d think that the mojo would appear to be working in NYCFC’s favor regardless of the recent hard-luck results against RSL and Atlanta. But in the interest of being comprehensive in our coverage, I asked Ian if the absence of first-choice destroyer Alexander Ring, who’s out tonight on a yellow card suspension thanks to his typically unrelenting aggressiveness Sunday in the A, would be enough to allow the Revs to put their stamp on the proceedings and pull off a shocker at Yankee Stadium.
“No,” Joy said, without a moment of hesitation.
“If you go all the way back to 2015, New England have won two games out of 25 on the road,” he added. They can play well away from home, but they just find it difficult picking up victories.”
(And I though my winless-in-nine stat was good.)
“I think that this team sometimes is guilty of trying to attack too much and forgets their defensive duties. They make too many mistakes on the road. But let’s not forget, there’s this sort of rivalry going back to this first and opening game at Yankee Stadium against this team, where they tried to do one over us. They want to have New York City’s number.”
So, what does Patrick Vieira need to do in terms of squad selection to ensure that NYCFC can jump back onto the right foot?
“These next four games—you have to try to get nine points from these four games. I think it’s massive that they have a big performance at Red Bull [in the Open Cup on June 14th]. That’s a big, big thing to me because it hasn’t quite happened for us so far.”
“It’s a really tough job for [Vieira], but he’s also got a lot of really good tools there that are set behind,” Joy said. “I think that [Yangel] Herrera’s a big loss for us with the U-20 Word Cup. It’s just come at the wrong time for us, really, because he’s performing well... He would be the perfect player to throw in there and just let go, but we have enough weapons sitting on the bench who are having to be patient, waiting for their opportunity to play, and Patrick can be quite happy with the squad that he has.”
In the Vieira parlance, I think the phrasing would be “quite really happy,” or perhaps “quite really pleased.” But Ian’s insights are singular— we’d be hard-pressed to figure out any fleeting reason to second-guess a man whose engagement with the merry experiment that is New York City FC dates back to the very beginning.
BONUS INSIGHTS FROM MR. JOY
- On being a fan:
“It’s such an amazing feeling. I know you guys, the fans and the media who cover this team, feel exactly the same way I do. I feel a part of this team. When they win, we win. When they lose, we all hurt.”
My heart tells me that I'm in the right place in New York City. I've bought into the project, I wanna be here, and I hope it lasts for a long time.”
- On John Sterzer:
“I know him quite well. I’ve watched him play at Salt Lake, and he’s a very nice kid. He’s a great, hard-working lad... If he's thrown in at the deep end this week and he gets to play, he's gotta be ready. Patrick Vieira gave him a lifeline; at a big club in Major League Soccer... He has to be able to perform because I think his future's on the line.”
- On YES Network play-by-play man Joe Tolleson:
“Joe Tolleson is quietly one of the funniest guys I have ever met. He's a comedian in the booth. When the camera goes off, when the microphone is down, he's one of the funniest guys. Never stops telling jokes, never stops putting an arm around you wanting to talk stories.
He always disappears two or three minutes before we come onto the broadcast. He'll go into the cafeteria at Yankee Stadium and go grab a drink or grab some food, whatever. And just as we're about to go on air, he'll always point down to my desk, where there'll be sitting an ice cream sundae or a chocolate cookie or a muffin; he always tries to get me to eat all this junk food... He doesn't want to eat it himself, but he always puts it right there in front of me to make me laugh before we go on air.”