Major League Soccer is the number one professional soccer league in the United States. Opinions on the league cover the whole spectrum from super-fans to haters. One could hear anything from “It’s a nice way to see some really talented players close to home” to “the only thing more boring than European soccer is American soccer.” Personally, I have always wanted to go to an MLS game to see the action for myself, and this past summer, I got the chance to watch NYCFC host the Colorado Rapids. Here’s the story of my day at the game and my first impression of the MLS.
Like many Cornellians, I live within a few hours of New York City. Also like many of my classmates, I had a summer internship and needed a quick weekend getaway from the stress of the workplace environment. So I texted all my friends in New York City for the summer, and headed to the Big Apple. Long story short, the next day, a good friend and I walked into Yankee Stadium to see NYCFC play Colorado.
After a quick walk around the mezzanine, we found our seats in the supporters’ section. Many MLS teams have copied European clubs by designating an area of seats for superfans that like to sing for basically the whole game. To get the full experience for our first MLS game, my friend and I picked seats in the supporters’ section, dubbed “The Third Rail” after the part of the subway that powers New York City. Indeed, the atmosphere was electric, with a number of fans showing up well before kickoff and a full drumline pounding out beats in the left field bleachers. After warm-ups and player introductions, the game kicked off.
New York City and Colorado, as two of the league’s best teams, have rosters chock-full of excellent players. NYCFC’s midfield consisted of two legendary European players, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Pirlo made his name with Italy’s AC Milan and Juventus, while Lampard excelled with Chelsea FC in England. NYCFC also has one of the league’s best strikers in World Cup winner David Villa, but he was suspended for the game I attended. Colorado is no slouch in the star department either, as they have U.S. Soccer goalkeeper Tim Howard, possibly the most famous American soccer player ever. A number of other players on show would be familiar to soccer fans, including ex-Athletic Club defender Andoni Iraola and exciting young British winger Jack Harrison. In short, the players were capable of putting on a show.
The first 30 minutes of the game were largely forgettable, notable only for the fan experience. Being part of a singing section was unique; even as someone not from the New York City area, it felt great to be part of such a loud and joyful group. At times, we even sang in Spanish, both to recognize the diversity of New York City and to salute striker Villa, even though he was suspended. Then, a quick New York City counter-attack turned my attention back to the field, and Lampard scored from two yards out to put NYCFC ahead.
Suddenly, misfortune struck. A refreshing drizzle suddenly became intense rainfall, and the PA announcer declared that the match would be halted, as there was lightning in the area. After 45 minutes of waiting under the concourse, the powers that be decided to resume the match and cheers erupted from the 25,000 fans in Yankee Stadium.
Shortly thereafter, one of Colorado’s midfielders received his second yellow card for clearly holding back Harrison on a breakaway. In soccer, two yellow cards becomes a red card, meaning Colorado had to play with one less player for the remainder of the game. NYCFC stretched their lead to 3-0 by the 75th minute, as the Blues took advantage of having an extra player. Lampard then proceeded to score a curling strike and a penalty kick, netting the first hat trick in NYCFC history. After Shkelzen Gashi scored a meaningless consolation for Colorado in the last minute, NYCFC won 5-1.
My friend and I walked to our subway stop, exhausted from all the singing and completely soaked through. The subway car was buzzing, full of sky blue-clad fans celebrating a massive win against a championship rival. The “Come on New York!” cheers echoed throughout the subway chamber, below the bustle of the Bronx, and eventually, Manhattan. My first MLS game had been a great success. Despite the weather delay, the teams put on a great show. It was nice to see famous soccer players in person that I enjoyed watching on TV as a kid. I would recommend anyone who lives near an MLS team check out a game sometime. It just might be one of the highlights of your summer.