The average American soccer fan may not be as rowdy as their European counterparts, but judging by a day spent with the NYCFC’s rabid “Third Rail” fanbase, it doesn’t mean their fervor is to be taken lightly.
Last weekend's matinee match against the New England Revolution was an awesome display of stamina for the bleacher fans who stand for the full 90 minutes, chanting and serenading their hometown players’ names, and singing songs in unison at the top of their lungs.
While the game itself was a fun experience, a 1-1 tie, the real action was in the bleachers – and even before kickoff.
Samantha from Hoboken isn’t what you’d call a fervent soccer fan, but even she felt the excitement before entering Yankee Stadium.
"I’m with a friend, whose family has season tickets in a suite – the Legends suite,” she said. “It’s my first time in a suite at a game. I’m excited.”
The exhilaration continued right into the stadium. The bowels featured numerous stations to take advantage of for the hardcore and casual fan alike, including the gift store - which the Yankees graciously allow NYCFC to take over and garnish with their merchandise, numerous food and drink kiosks, and family-friendly stations for free face painting and a stand where fans can adorn their hair to match NYCFC’s blue and white colors.
One person who truly appreciates the ambiance that NYCFC matches offer is an avid fan named Anthony. The Staten Island native has been a fan since the franchise’s inception and was as exuberant as any spectator in the 237 section. The crescendo of Anthony’s cheering came at the 10-minute mark when Thomas McNamara found the back of the net with a creative header. Almost simultaneously, the celebration commenced, equipped with frenetic towel waiving, streamers being tossed, and voluntary beer showers among the bleacher faithful.
The goal put the entire stadium into a frenzy, but perhaps none more than the Staten Islander, who was a very loud participant during many of the section’s songs that were sung in unison.
Anthony said the atmosphere at every game is electric, and that as a season-ticket holder, he enjoys voicing his opinion and fandom as loudly as possible.
“I have season tickets. This is my first season with season tickets. Last year, I just went to games here and there,” he said, adding soccer at the Stadium is a better value than anything the NFL or NBA has to offer. “It’s great because season tickets come out to like $25 a game. This is way more affordable, even though the drinks are still expensive as [heck]. It’s way more affordable than going to a football game or the Knicks - especially since they stink.”
Anthony added that while he doesn’t personally know many of his fellow “Third Rail” fans, it’s still a family atmosphere.
“It’s an awesome experience being here. The team is awesome, and it’s so much fun. It’s kind of a tight-knit community between the supporters. There’s Facebook gatherings and there’s a website for the Third Rail, where you can learn all the chants and songs. It’s great,” he said.
About the only con is the amount of stamina it takes to be in the “Third Rail,” as no fan sits during the entire 90-minute affair, with halftime being the only reprieve to take a load off and recuperate.
“Dude, it’s a workout, and I’m out of shape, so I’m already done,” he said during halftime, but added he’s thankful there’s finally a local team for which he thinks is worth rooting. “I’m a huge fan. I’ve always liked MLS, but I couldn’t root for the [Harrison, New Jersey-based] Red Bulls, and I wasn’t really a fan of the MetroStars either. So, when they announced we’d get a team, I was super excited.”
The excitement is literally drummed up by a rabid core of fans who are adjacent to the “Third Rail.” The Los Templados have their own entity, clad in bright orange T-shirts. They add to the guttural singing and chanting with their own flair, via drumming.
Gretta Fernandez is a loyal soccer fan from Ecuador, and she proudly supports NYCFC.
“We have a team from our country we root for, but we’re also living in New York City and this is our team now, too,” she said. “We’ve been living here for so many years, so we’re now all into this team now, too.”
Chelsea Socias is a Queens native and one of the primary drummers. Like Gretta, she is an ardent supporter and has been with the team since day one.
“I’m hardcore. It’s game day and I’m always ready to go. We’re here every game,” she said, explaining the Los Templados moniker. “In Ecuador it means we’re the strongest of the group. We’re powerful, we’re brave. No one can mess with us. It’s a great name because it represents us and who we are as fans.”
She added that she gets great joy and pride from rallying the sections.
“I play the drums. And we put our hearts out there every game for NYCFC. We’re here as a support group. We are one, [but] this section is different from the Third Rail. We are the New York City Support Club – NYCSC,” she said, noting their fandom isn’t exclusive to Yankee Stadium. “We’re at every home game and sometimes we travel to away games. We’ve been to Boston, Philly, D.C., and Chicago, too. We’re serious.”
- During the player introductions, the “Third Rail” loudly screamed “sucks!” after every Revolution player intro. They then emphatically shouted the last name of every NYCFC player during his intro. The loudest cheers were for Italian National Team legend Andrea Pirlo, but the longest ovation was for Ghana's Kwadwo Poku.