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New York City FC finds comfort at Red Bull Arena despite fan concerns

‘The pitch was fantastic for us and I think we enjoyed playing here,’ NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said of Red Bull Arena.

San Carlos players watch as New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) heads the ball into the net for a goal during the first half in the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

HARRISON, N.J. — Despite a boycott by their flagship supporters’ group and the angst about playing in a facility that has yielded few favorable results in the history of the franchise, the New York City Football Club looked quite comfortable at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night.

The Pigeons blanked San Carlos 1-0 to advance in the Concacaf Champions League on 6-3 aggregate.

The club confirmed that on a rainy evening while facing an embargo from The Third Rail supporters’s group, more than 2,700 spectators pass through the turnstiles at Red Bull Arena. 

And there is the prospect the Hudson County facility will be the venue for City’s home leg when it meets Liga MX side Tigres in the tournament quarterfinals.

A NYCFC spokesperson said Yankee Stadium – the regular domain for the Bronx club – is the preferred setting for the subsequent round, but Red Bull Arena may be an option due to extensive offseason field reconstruction at the stadium whose primary tenants are the New York Yankees.

Citi Field, which will host New York City on four Saturdays during the MLS regular season, is not available for the second round of CCL.

NYCFC manager Ronny Deila was at ease in describing the environment on the hostile grounds of their derby neighbors, New York Red Bulls.

“The atmosphere was good,” Deila said. “There were not many people, but the people who were here were making a lot of noise, so that was good.”

The Third Rail argued it was unacceptable to play at the home of their arch rivals and publicly called for a boycott of the match. The club’s primary supporters’ group instead publicized a gathering at an establishment in the Bronx to view the match.

“Of course, we want to play at home, that’s for sure,” Deila said. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen. Today, when it was not possible, the pitch was fantastic for us and I think we enjoyed playing here.”

Fullback Anton Tinnerholm had a sense of relief after previous failures at Red Bull Arena.

“I’ve only been losing here – I didn’t have any good memories from here,” Tinnerholm said.

The Swedish national, in his third season with NYCFC, is 0-3 against the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Overall, the club has one win, seven losses and one draw in all competitions versus RBNY in Harrison.

“It’s good to have my first win here,” Tinnerholm said. “It’s not the optimal situation. As a player we have to deal with it. We played a great game today.”

“The players enjoyed playing here today,” Deila said.

NYCFC will host the first leg of the quarterfinals on either March 10, 11 or 12. The date, time and venue are to be announced.

A club spokesperson said they expect to have a second round site settled by the end of this week or early next week.

If New York City were to advance to the semifinals or finals, Yankee Stadium would be unavailable due to conflicts with the Yankees.

Of note – neither Yankee Stadium nor Citi Field have met Concacaf approval to host a CCL match. NYCFC CEO and President Brad Sims recently told Pro Soccer USA that both facilities have been vetted and the club has a list of things that need to be addressed for Yankee Stadium and/or Citi Field to be approved.

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