Yankee Stadium for soccer: good and bad

New York City FCIt looks like Yankee Stadium will be the home of New York City FC for the next several years, so here’s an early look as to how it works for MLS soccer.

The largest crowd of the season for NYC FC, 48,047, showed up Sunday for NYC FC’s match against New York Red Bulls, in what’s turning out to be one of the best rivalries in all of professional soccer. That large a crowd certainly brings out the best and the worst in a facility, and while the fan side of the experience is good, the experience on the field wasn’t so great.

The playing field is the point of contention. The field runs across the outfield, with the infield between second and first covered with sod. That makes the prime seating for soccer the outfield seating, with the prime seating in the grandstand bowl set far from the action. The pitch is already as narrow as MLS rules allow, and with part of it covered with sod (with the accompanying unsure footing), it makes for some unique playing conditions. From the New York Daily News:

“It’s like different patches all over the place,” Dax McCarty said. “It’s hard to get your footing. It’s bumpy. I think you could tell teams didn’t really want to attack down that side.”

Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said it was harder to play on that side of the field, and that the entire field, which is as narrow as MLS allows, was tough to get a feel for.

“I think the angle at which the field sits in the stadium is a little awkward once it gets down to that side of the field, which disorients the players a little bit,” Marsch said.

Of course, quirks like these can turn into home-field advantage if the players have a chance to master them. But the team doesn’t practice at Yankee Stadium, and given the staggered MLS schedule, NYC FC will have a tough time learning how to best leverage the pitch. By the way, the Red Bulls emerged victorious, 3-1.

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