NYCFC put together a special year in 2017.
A successful season on the field complete with its own unique set of milestones, individual accolades and international call-ups, spreading soccer to New York City's youth, eSports innovation, and plenty of celebration summed up our third year of representing New York City in MLS.
PHOTOS: For the Fans...
Here are the quotes that defined our season:
NYCFC President Jon Patricof on bringing soccer to NYC kids
“On behalf of NYCFC I’m proud to be here to inaugurate the first 10 of these incredible pitches that will bring so much to these communities, I think if you look at the faces here of these kids and the coaches that help them and mentor them in day in and day out you’ll all agree that it’s an incredible moment for the city, it’s an incredible moment for NYCFC, and it’s an incredible moment for soccer.
"We call it the Soccer Effect at NYCFC – we believe strongly in the ability of this sport to positively improve kids lives. Hopefully, amongst us we have many future soccer stars, we know more importantly that these fields and the good work that will go on on these fields will have a positive impact on your lives and help you hopefully with your studies and your good health habits."
Patrick Vieira on NYCFC's resilience and depth
Injuries, international call-ups, and a crazy summer schedule couldn't keep NYCFC from finishing second in MLS and earning a first-round playoff bye for the second year in a row. Putting together back-to-back seasons like that in this league takes something special, and for NYCFC, it came down to the intangibles.
“When you’re missing players it gives opportunities to others to express themselves and some players who haven’t played for quite a long time will have a chance to start the game," said Patrick Vieira.
"They will have to show that they deserve to play more often. They will have to take the opportunity to show how good they are and to show they’ve been working really well. That will be good because what I want is for players to compete and to make it really difficult to choose the starting XI.”
"We are where we are because we are a team where, the people that come from the bench always bring something to the team. That is a strength.
“We have a lot of character. I think the balance is really good between the way we want to play and the character we have in the team. This group is challenging each other every day in training. Everyone wants to play. Nobody accepts being on the bench, and this is what I want. This group of players, they play the same way they’ve been training every single day, and that is the reason we are ready to compete.”
Jack Harrison celebrates his England U-21 Debut
One of the highest accolades for a young player can receive is the opportunity to represent their country. For Jack Harrison, one of MLS' standout attackers, a ten-goal season earned him a shot at England's U-21 squad. After overcoming some travel nightmares, Jack made his mark with England, earning his debut in a UEFA U-21 qualifier, and a start the following match against Andorra.
Jack said: “I was thrilled when I found out; I was really speechless when Patrick told me just before the game tonight. It’s an exciting opportunity and one I’m very grateful for. I never thought this would happen when I moved out here when I was 14. It’s a special moment and I’m going to cherish it.
"Every year this league is growing and you only have to watch the games to see that it’s getting better and better every year. I’m so excited to be traveling over and doing the best I can. It’s an honor to represent my country."
David Villa's Dream of Spain
Our captain has been the definition of excellence since joining the league, collecting 22 goals this year during another season of unwavering class. His production on the field, and his commitment to doing all of the little things that matter off the field, earned him another shot at what he describes as a dream come true: representing his country.
“I don’t have words," said Villa. "It’s great for me, for the club, for everybody. “I will give everything, like I always did when I went to the national team, and try to enjoy this day, because it’s really good for me."
“I think it’s good, I think it’s good for everybody. I understand that the league is changing, that the league is great, the level is, step by step, growing, and it’s great for me, for the club, for MLS, for everybody."
Vieira on how NYCFC has grown in 2017
Patrick Vieira brought NYCFC to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2016, but he knows that 2017 had an entirely different ethos. The club continues to grow, and so does Vieira as a coach. This year, City showed that.
"The thing that I love about the team this year is that we are getting a better balance between playing well, trying to make the right decisions, and taking risks.
"I think we've been less naive this year than we were last year, and that is, as well, me understanding better the league and understanding better what I want from the players. That is why I believe we are a better team this year than we were last year."
Tommy Mac on bringing home a Derby win for the fans
Ahead of what would be our first-ever win at Red Bull Arena, Tommy McNamara, an NYCFC original, thought of what it would mean to our supporters to bring home a Derby win from New Jersey.
“I always want to win every game that I play in - with the Red Bulls, probably a little bit more because of everything.
“I think of our fans. I think that it brings to mind how well they’ve taken to us over the years and how they’ve supported us as a club and not only does it mean a lot to us as the players and coaching staff but it means a lot to the supporters, and we want to give that back to them.”
Ben Sweat on delivering a Derby victory away from home
Ben Sweat, in just his ninth MLS appearance, scored his first MLS goal in what was our first-ever win at Red Bull Arena. This victory was key milestone in an amazing season, and this is how Ben summed it up: being well-prepared gave NYCFC this opportunity, and being strong-willed is the reason they were able to take it.
"We sacrificed a little more than they did today. That's why we had possession, we had good opportunities, that's why we were on top.
“It was just our standard set piece – they didn’t mark me at the back post and sure enough Alex Ring put a perfect ball in and I got my head to it. It was amazing for it to go in and to put that second goal in to close off the game like that.”
Villa on fighting through adversity against Chicago
Down a man for most of the match, on just two days of rest, and in the middle of a New York City summer, NYCFC took down the Chicago Fire on July 22nd. Chicago was top of the league at that point, but NYCFC willed themselves to one of the defining wins of the 2017 season.
Here's what our captain had to say:
"We don't go down, we go up. We're thinking about running more because we are down one player less. We did it and we won this game.
"It was a tough game for the weather, for the conditions of the game. We played the best team in the league, we played three days ago, we were with ten men within the tenth minute of the first half. The game was crazy for us. It was so, so difficult and we did very well. We showed to everyone how strong we are today."
NYCFC Welcomes Sean Johnson
One of the biggest additions to NYCFC for the 2017 season was Sean Johnson. The veteran goalkeeper experienced a career renaissance with City after seven years with the Chicago Fire. Johnson earned his first US Men's National Team call-up since 2013 this past Summer, and anchored NYCFC to a second-placed finish in the league, notching a career-high seven shutouts.
WATCH: Sean Johnson vs. LA Galaxy
After a 2-0 shutout victory over the LA Galaxy, Patrick Vieira said, "He's been fantastic for us since he arrived to our football club. Not just because of what he's doing on the field, it's about who he is as a person. He's a really strong character, he's a really strong personality, and this is what we wanted in our football club.
"He's been a fantastic signing for us. We love him. When he played the way he played tonight, we could play another hour and look like we are not going to concede a goal."
Jonathan Lewis on a late game-winner against New England
NYCFC's first-round pick at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Jonathan Lewis came on strong during the second half of the season. He scored two goals and added an assist in 342 minutes of action, but his nearly impossibly late game-winner against New England on August 20th was the defining moment of his season. It spoke volumes about Patrick Vieira's philosophy in organizing his team and developing young players—a philosophy that Lewis echoed in his post-match comments.
"The starting XI did most of the work," said Lewis. "They opened up the team until the very end. The subs, we came on and made an impact—all of us.
"It's a good feeling, but at the end of the day, we just have to keep winning and pushing on."
Patrick Vieira summed up what he expects from young players like Lewis after that match, too.
He said: "He's been working really well, he's been working really hard, and all the good things he's been doing on the field are because, since the very first day, he's always got his focus right.
"When you work hard and you work well, you get rewarded."
Chris Holly puts NYCFC in a World Cup Final
NYCFC became the first MLS team in history to sign a professional eSports player when the Club added Chris Holly to represent them at EA SPORTS FIFA tournaments this past April. Holly has done great things as a member of NYCFC, including representing City at the FIFA Interactive Club World Cup Grand Final in London this past August.
For Holly, this was a dream come true, and his excitement at the chance to join NYCFC set the stage for the success that was to come.
“It’s an honor to represent NYCFC," said Holly.
"It’s a chance of a lifetime, I’m really excited and looking forward to the future. I never thought this would happen so when the club contacted me, I was shocked and now I’m really looking forward to it."
2018 brings even more promise
After bowing out of the 2017 MLS Cup playoffs to the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, NYCFC is already back to work, looking for ways to get better on and off the field in 2018.
For Patrick Vieira, that means capitalizing on all of the progress made this year, and continuing the momentum he's helped build.
"We are closer then we were last year," Vieira explained. "I think last year, we were naive. I think tonight, we had a really good discipline on the field, and that gave us a chance to get really close.
"It's a really good experience for myself, and as a team, as a football club, we will really improve and get stronger next year.
"I think, as a club, we are more solid on and off the field than we were last year. We improved a lot as a football club, and I strongly believe that next year is going to be even better. I believe that we are working well, we are improving on the field."