When NYCFC takes the field for the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions League tie Wednesday night, it may do so in front of a largely empty crowd.
That’s not right.
Various supporters’ groups plan on boycotting the match — which will be played at Red Bull Arena — as the club enters its sixth season still without a soccer-specific stadium of its own.
The supporters have legitimate gripes, but why punish the players by depriving them of support?
After five supporters’ groups co-signed a statement condemning the game’s placement at RBA, The Third Rail (the most prominent group) announced that it had “decided as an organization to not participate” in the match. Leadership from New York City Supporters Club, which is no longer recognized as an official supporters’ group, also said most of their roughly 200 members will be doing the same, in emails to The Post. Both organizations — and possibly more — will watch the match far from Harrison, NJ at Bronx bar, The Dugout.
It is embarrassing to play a Champions League match at the home of your rivals. But it’s possible to not lump the club’s players and front office leadership together. You can support your team while despising its executives, and let them know about it too.
Take Manchester United for example. Many fans have opposed the Glazer family since it took over the club in 2005, saddling it with millions of dollars in debt that still persists to this day. But you won’t find Old Trafford empty in protest of United’s owners. What you will sometimes find is thousands of supporters in yellow-and-green “protest scarves” voicing their displeasure.
For NYCFC, such a demonstration would make a far stronger impression than a no-show for one of the biggest matches in the club’s history. Boycotting a weeknight game that would struggle for attendance even under normal circumstances isn’t the way to affect change.
Could you imagine the Giants or Yankees playing without a good chunk of their fans for a playoff game? Boycotting Wednesday’s game won’t bring a stadium deal to fruition overnight. It actually could be counterproductive to NYCFC’s goal of reaching the next round (it won the first leg vs. San Carlos 5-3 in Costa Rica).
It’s not as if the players are thrilled about playing in New Jersey either. But goalkeeper Sean Johnson provided a needed dose of perspective during a conference call last week.
“We understand that playing outside the five boroughs is inconvenient for our fans,” he said. “It’s not ideal. We understand the frustration. But we need everyone out in full force.”
Punishing Johnson and his teammates for the flaws of the club’s suits is a needless, self-righteous act that only undermines NYCFC’s dynastic ambitions.
There’s nothing wrong with complaining about the club’s plodding stadium search, it’s middling wage bill or its inability to retain coaches.
But thinking that harboring those beliefs and standing behind the players are mutually exclusive?
Now that is truly foolish.