QUEENS, N.Y. — As soon as New York City FC was announced as a Major League Soccer expansion team in 2013, Joe Acquista was in. The 41-year-old Queens, N.Y., native followed MLS from the league’s inception, but there was never an intense rooting interest until a team formed inside New York City’s five boroughs.
“Going to Jersey wasn’t always the most ideal for me,” he said. “Once NYCFC was announced, we were pretty much one of the first people to get season tickets.”
Acquista bought five season tickets — one for each of the Acquista brothers.
But as soon as younger brother Carlo Acquista became an assistant scout for the New York Red Bulls in February, there was a vacancy.
“When he got the job, we told him in a group text that he was no longer allowed to use those tickets,” said Fabio Acquista, the youngest of the brothers.
Soccer has always been a big part of the Acquista household. They all played the sport growing up and in college as follows: Joe (SUNY Oneonta), Carlo (St. John’s University), Alessandro (St. John’s/St. Francis College), Paolo (St. Francis) and Fabio (St. Francis/LIU Post).
Carlo, 39, was part of the 1996 national championship team at St. John’s and went on to coach at St. Francis College and Adelphi University.
They are also part of the family business. Joe serves as the general manager of Acquista Trattoria, an Italian restaurant in the shadows of St. John’s and frequented by NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna. Alessandro is the head chef, Paolo is the director of operations and Fabio is a manager and aids the catering business, which includes multiple high schools and colleges in New York City.
As for rooting interests, there was always uniformity in the family. Through their father, Rosario, they were all AC Milan fans, and as proud Italian-Americans they supported both the Azzurri and the United States national team.
Now, though, there is a fraction.
Joe leads the NYCFC charge, although he’s quick to point out there isn’t disdain for the Red Bulls because he did root for them as the only team in town for nearly 20 years.
“Listen, I’m going to root for New York City first. When the Red Bulls played Champions League, I was rooting for the Red Bulls,” he said. “For me, there isn’t the hatred I have for the Red Bulls like I do as an [NHL] Islanders fan rooting against the Rangers.”
Alessandro, 34, is part of the split. He had fun going to NYCFC games in the beginning but was turned off by the awkwardly small field size and the atmosphere, especially when he compared it to Red Bull Arena.
Beside, he said, famiglia takes precedent.
“Now with Carlo there at the Red Bulls, I feel like it’s blood before rivalry,” he said. “I support my brother. I’m with the Red Bulls now.”
Even before becoming an employee, Carlo said he felt a personal connection with the Red Bulls. He had relationships with assistant coach Chris Armas and the club’s director of youth programs, Bob Montgomery, as well as fullback Connor Lade, a fellow St. John’s alum, and former midfielder Mike Grella, a Long Island, N.Y., native.
And when the chance came to work for the club, Carlo jumped at it, even though he knew it would create some fun friction when the Hudson River Derby came around each year.
“Soccer needs rivalries. But if you go to Europe, families probably don’t talk to each other for years when it comes to a derby,” Carlo said. “This is a match made in soccer derby heaven with some discussions, arguments — but at the end of the day we’re still family.”
Carlo certainly doesn’t have to worry about a seat for the first derby showdown of 2018, which is Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. But what happens when the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium in July and August?
“He can’t sit with us,” Joe decreed.
Carlo is fine with that.
“I’ll have to watch from an open seat because there are open seats at Yankee Stadium,” Carlo said jokingly. “I’ll stay away from them so they don’t get themselves in trouble, either.”