By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith
Saturday, May 5: 4-0 Loss
“I don’t have much to say, I’ll be out front
Won’t you come spoil my night?
Feelings come into play and I’m thinkin’
this happens every time.
Spoil my night, spoil my night…”
— Keira Mun Smith (@keiramunsmith) May 11, 2018
Before Saturday’s thrashing of NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, and before said night was spoiled, I spent quite a bit of time pondering soccer fandom in the US in general and more specifically the development of franchise rivalries in MLS. We were, of course, playing our alleged rival in what MLS dubbed the #NYDerby. There was so much talk in the days leading up to the game about how both NYC fans and NY Red Bulls fans were actually renaming it the “Hudson River Derby” and were resistant to the assumed insistence by the league in naming it a New York rivalry.
As seasoned football fans are quick to point out, a “derby” game doesn’t necessarily indicate a match that underscores the fiercest rivalry. If you look at Real Madrid, they may play a derby versus Atlético Madrid and fans of both clubs across the city will come out in large numbers, but their true rival in La Liga on any given day would be FC Barcelona. And in the English Premier League, if you ask any Manchester United fan who their “biggest rival” is, they will answer Liverpool and not Manchester City.
— Jose Moreno Jr. (@JoMoren8792) May 5, 2018
When soccer fans speak in general about the makings of a rivalry, the common thread is that it’s more than just a geographic commonality. Fans commented that true rivalries take time and history to develop and that ultimately it’s passion that fuels all.
However, in a league as young and eager to grow as MLS, mere hints of a rivalry by means of geography, team age, and a few contentious games can be accelerated into a full-blown “Rivalry”. These matches are easy to advertise and market and they sell more tickets. Both derby games and matches against a league rival grip fans as they give them a rare chance to loudly proclaim which clan they identify with.
“The beautiful game is for the fans and they are the ones responsible for defining what is meaningful and important and what or who isn’t”. – NYCFC fan Angel Meza
In the case of the New York City and the Red Bulls, some say that it’s not a true historical rivalry and not even a true derby game as the Red Bulls’ home is in Patterson, NJ. However, there is clearly true animosity and, for many NYCFC fans, it stems from the belief that a New York team needs to actually play in New York State.
It seems that the perceived highjacking of the “NY” in RBNY was the big rub. Not that the actual team or its fans had any say in that decision. No matter, as one City fan succinctly stated, “The one thing that makes a rivalry a rivalry is both sides agreeing it is one.” And that may be the only thing that most NYCFC and Red Bulls fans can agree on.
The irony of the #HudsonDerby this Saturday is that the actual New York club is the guest team. Jersey people always fail at geography.
P.S. NYC should buy Luis Robles. He deserves a trophy, not getting canned in playoffs or the now-worthless Shields.#NYisBlue 2018 champs!
— Clint Dempsey, POTUS (@PrezClintDeuce) May 4, 2018
Special thanks to the following fans for sharing their thoughts about soccer fandom: Andrés Emilio Soto, Stephanie Plaut, Osman Sosa, Rollie Joe Carney, Anthony Scarcello and Angel Meza. And thanks to Post Malone for those lyrics.
Featured image of HC Patrick Vieira: @NYCFC
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith
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