Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Thoughts on NYCFC'S Yankee Stadium Home

When it was first announced that NYCFC would play their home matches at Yankee Stadium, I was rather skeptical about it. At first, it was all about the spectator experience. Having been in many a baseball stadium, I have never been able to picture soccer played in one. The sight lines in many of the seats could be very strange. There is a lot of wasted space since the pitch doesn't take up nearly the area of a ballfield.

A lot of spots seem like they would be really disconnected from the game. I feel like it would be kind of like watching an outdoor hockey game in a baseball stadium, something I have done before. I felt separated from the game when I am used to being up close and personal with it.

It wasn't until New York City FC had their home opener on Sunday afternoon that I thought about it from a tactical perspective. Due to strange things like a pitching mound and a dirt infield, and the odd configuration of the ballpark, the pitch is required to be very thin, and it is quite noticeable. Watch a game from almost any other stadium out there and follow it with one at Yankee Stadium and you will notice how strange it looks.

Being a supporter and season ticket holder for Detroit City FC, who play their matches on a high school football field, I am used to watching games on a thin pitch. The field at Cass Tech Stadium is narrow, so narrow, in fact, that in order to play their US Open Cup match last year against RWB Adria, they had to move to a different school with a wider field. However, I am quite certain that their pitch is still wider than the one at Yankee Stadium.

The actual measurement of the pitch's width is 70 yards, which is the minimum required for an international match,

This can affect the game tactically in many ways. Teams that rely on attacking wide and flinging crosses into the box will find life to be quite difficult. The smaller width forces more defenders into the middle, making those crosses more difficult to land. A narrow field tends to favor teams that work well through the middle in tight spaces, which, fortunately, New York City is well equipped to do. With David Villa and Mix Diskerud, they have the midfielders with the capability to thread passes in little space.

Going forward, I expect teams to play very narrow formations when the visit NYCFC. I like the idea of using a 4-1-2-1-2. A holding midfielder can keep the opposing number 10 at bay, while your own number 10 (in NYCFC's case Villa) has two striker options up front to thread his passes to. NYC lined up in a standard 4-4-2 in the opener against New England and managed to bag a pair of goals, but I think a more narrow focus might suit them well in the future.

From a television watcher's perspective, it didn't take long to adjust to the low angle camera and I grew to really like it in the end. I especially prefer it to the extremely high camera that you get at White Hart Lane. I feel a little more connected to the action than I do from the bird's eye view. Sure, you can see a lot more from an analytic view, but I do enjoy getting up close and personal with the action.

I still felt generally uncomfortable with the viewing experience. This was compounded by the return to normalcy just a few minutes later when the Portland-LA Galaxy match began.

I will adjust to watching games at Yankee Stadium as this season progresses, but I will always feel a bit off about it, The awkwardness of playing the game in a space it was not meant for will never really go away. The Yankee Stadium thing is okay to get the club started, but I am hoping that NYCFC finds themselves a soccer specific stadium quickly.

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