The New York City Football Club took a well-earned point last year in their debut at Los Angeles’ newly minted cathedral of soccer.
Ahead of its first away match of 2019, the Los Angeles Football Club appear primed to do better than a draw inside NYCFC’s sporting house of worship.
Despite repeated calls for a soccer-only facility to be constructed somewhere within New York City’s five boroughs, a club dubbed the Pigeons has nested on the grounds of the new Yankee Stadium since 2015.
Having watched soccer and baseball across the street inside “The House That Ruth Built,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley saw the legendary Brazilian Pele score a bicycle kick for the New York Cosmos, as well as the Major League Baseball debut of his brother Scott, who came up as a catcher with the Yankees organization in 1984.
The converted baseball diamond offers the tightest confines allowed by FIFA’s international guidelines (110 yards long and 70 yards wide), and some have suggested it’s closer quarters than that.
Aiming to manage situations when the narrow field clogs up play, LAFC constricted the dimensions of their practice pitch during training this week.
“Certainly it plays small,” assessed Bradley. “The angles inside the stadium in some way make the whole game seem a little bit cock-eyed. Then you’ve got grass over the infield, and when you see the way the field is laid, it’s also difficult.”
Said striker Christian Ramirez, who scored his first goal of the season in LAFC’s 4-1 drubbing of the Portland Timbers last weekend: “At the end of the day, it’s regulation size and regulation goals, so we can’t use that as an excuse. We just have to go out there and produce and get a win out there.”
A victory would continue LAFC’s torrid start to its second season, giving the Black & Gold maximum points after three contests.
Since 2014, no team in Major League Soccer won its first three matches and missed the postseason, though LAFC’s aspirations are grander than playoff appearances.
NYCFC, too, is expected to deliver and has started with a pair of draws.
A month after visiting L.A. in 2018, Spain’s Domènec Torrent – who won 24 trophies as an assistant under Pep Guardiola for the past 11 years at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City – took over for NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira.
Forward David Villa left the team in the offseason and the club’s only captain was replaced by Finnish midfielder Alexander Ring, who scored in NYCFC’s season opener.
Also replacing Villa as NYCFC’s third designated player, Romanian forward Alexandru Mitriță has drawn praise for his on-the-ball ability and leads MLS with 12 shots through two matches.
“Even when they lose David Villa, I don’t think their overall idea of what kind of football they want to play has changed much,” Bradley said.
As Bradley and LAFC field a team at Yankee Stadium for the first time Sunday, more than 200 supporters from “The 3252” are expected to gather underneath the venue’s iconic frieze.
“When you’re in that visiting stadium, you can look to a corner and know you’ve got people there who are with you every step of the way,” Bradley said. “That’s so important.”
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