By Peter Schwartz
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On Wednesday night, David Villa and Frank Lampard were sitting together in a suite, and they had to be thinking the same thing.
Next year at this time, they will be playing for New York City FC. And it’s going to be very cool calling Yankee Stadium home.
The designated international players signed by NYCFC were among a Yankee Stadium soccer-record crowd of 49,653 that saw Liverpool play Manchester City to a 2-2 tie before Liverpool pulled out the Guinness International Champions Cup match winning a penalty-kick shootout 3-1.
Villa, who will meet with reporters at a soccer tournament in Macombs Dam Park on Thursday, took part in the coin toss and received a nice ovation from the crowd. He got his first taste of Yankee Stadium last June 11, when Spain beat Ireland in the Bronx 2-0.
Yankee Stadium will be the temporary home for Villa, Lampard and the rest of NYCFC starting in 2015. In its final dress rehearsal for a full slate of games next year, the ballpark was electric.
I mean, the place really looked great, and the game was pretty good too.
After a scoreless but entertaining first half, Manchester City jumped on top 1-0 in the 53rd minute on a goal by Stevan Jovetic. Liverpool tied the match in the 59th minute on a goal by Jordan Henderson.
Jovetic tallied his second goal of the match in the 67th minute to give Manchester City a 2-1 lead but Raheem Sterling fired the equalizer into the back of the net for Liverpool in the 85th minute.
In the shootout, Lucas Leiva tallied the game-winning penalty kick for Liverpool as the Reds improve to 2-0-0 with five points good for the top spot in Group B, while Manchester City dropped to 1-1 and 4 points. The winners of each group will meet in the tournament championship game on August 4 in Miami.
But as far local soccer is concerned, the story was the crowd and what could lie ahead next year for NYCFC when it joins Major League Soccer as an expansion team.
The crowd — a majority were Liverpool supporters who painted Yankee Stadium red — was terrific all night. While NYCFC’s management couldn’t have been happy with the result or all the red jerseys on hand because they are majority-owned by Manchester City, it’s clear that the stadium will provide a strong atmosphere while the franchise looks for a permanent home.
As for the pitch that ran from left field to the first-base line, it seemed to play fairly well, although the grounds crew will have to make some adjustments with the sod that covers up part of the infield. Additional sod had to be placed down the first bad warning track and into right field to complete the pitch.
It’s not perfect, but all parties involved will have to make the best of it until they can complete a deal for a soccer specific stadium.
Also, I think they will have to do something with the remainder of the field that was left exposed. In my opinion, it doesn’t look good for a soccer match when part of the infield is exposed, so perhaps they can cover that up next year with some advertising or NYCFC logos.
That might be nitpicking, but I think the pitch would look better if there was no evidence of a baseball diamond. Yeah, I know it’s Yankee Stadium, but it is now also the home of a soccer club, so they need to feel at home as well.
While it was great to see almost 50,000 at the stadium for a soccer match, NYCFC won’t have to worry about selling that many tickets to a game next year. For most MLS matches, the upper level will be closed, downsizing the stadium to a seating capacity of 33,444.
The sixth soccer match to take place at the new Yankee Stadium has set the tone for at least 17 more in 2015, when New York City Football Club steps onto the Bronx pitch.
It was an enjoyable evening at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. It felt like a Yankees postseason game. A full house emptied out onto Babe Ruth Plaza, River Avenue, and 161st Street with the happy fans cheering all the way to their cars and to the train stations.
On this night, the happy fans were wearing red.
Next year, NYCFC would like to see a lot more blue. With the buzz surrounding the team, that’s very likely to happen.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow the remainder of the Guinness International Champions Cup @IntChampionsCup and you can follow New York City Football Club @nycfc.
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