For New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira to every player in the locker room, there was no doubt who the Man of the Match was following a 5-0 loss to Toronto FC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was the 28,255 fans who showed up for NYCFC’s first-ever home playoff game at Yankee Stadium Sunday night, many of whom stayed until the final whistle even though the outcome of the match had long since been decided.
The message from NYCFC players were two-fold: Thank you and sorry.
“It’s amazing. Today, I only can say sorry for the face we gave in the game, but it’s not only today. It’s amazing the supporters this year,” NYCFC captain David Villa said. “We are happy, we are proud. We have one of the best supporters in the league and we are only two years old. It’s amazing and for today, sorry.”
When the players arrived at the stadium hours before the game the fans were there.
“When we arrived to the stadium, there were 50-100 people outside welcoming the players, really loud, making noise,” Vieira said.
That continued in pre-game warmups, player introductions and throughout the match.
“That is why it really hurts the way we lost because the fans responded to what I wanted from them. They were fantastic,” Vieira said. “They were there, they were present, they were behind our back. Today, yes, we let them down, but the message for them is to think about the first game we played and to look at how the team improved and this team will be better next season.”
That unwavering support had an impact on the players, before and after the game and throughout the season. It serves as motivation for next season.
“They stuck with us,” forward Tony Taylor said. “We really appreciate them. They’ve been with us since Day One and without them we wouldn’t have made it this far. I’m very thankful and very appreciative of all their support, thankful they stuck with us for this long and next year we’re going to work even harder to make even more great memories for the club.”
Added Vieira: “The only thing I can promise to them is to come back with more determination, more hunger and to do better than we did this year.”