Jeff Bradley: Jersey fans rooting for NYCFC? You kiddin' me?
Time to put my Jersey on.
Not my jersey. Certainly not my kit.
We were here first. Did you hear that, NYCFC? We were here first, in Jersey, where we have basically owned the game of soccer since the first time a ball was kicked on these shores. So, even with your Manchester City and New York Yankee owners, you don't frighten us, not even a little.
We welcome you to MLS, you and your five initials. You and your "Football." You and your "Club." You and what we're sure is going to be a bunch of splashy signings and, surely, hip celebrity fans. Welcome to the league.
Welcome to the rivalry.
Because I think I speak on behalf of my home state when I say, "It's on." I don't think we ever felt comfortable trying to act like big shots, because it's not our nature. We're better here when we have a chip on our shoulder. And now we've got one, and it's you NYCFC.
I hope I'm speaking on behalf of my fellow Jersey soccer friends. I hope I'm speaking on behalf of Mooch Myernick – may he rest in peace – and guys like him who grinded it out on the fields long before anyone thought, or cared, about getting paid to play soccer. Guys like John Harkes (right), Tony Meola, Tab Ramos and Peter Vermes. Guys like Tommy Kain and George Gelnovatch. Guys like Richie Williams and Stevie Rammel.
It's not important to us that the Red Bulls are called "New York," just like it's not important that the Giants are called "New York." There's New York, New York, and there's New York, New Jersey, if that makes sense.
Today, the Red Bulls are officially New York, New Jersey. If you're a New Yorker and you've supported the club, by all means, stay with them. But understand, you cannot like the team that's going to try and take the market by storm. You can't like them at all.
Oh, they're going to try and entice you with a lot of stuff, this NYCFC team. But all that's going to do is tick you off. You're going to dig in and remember where you came from.
You're going to remember the rainy nights at Giants Stadium, and there were many. You're going to remember thinking Sasa Curcic was the answer and that Sergio Galván Rey was truly going to be the King of Goals. You're going to remember how you watched Roberto Donadoni and Youri Djorkaeff at the end of their storied careers, and saw Eddie Gaven, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley at the beginning of theirs.
And you're going to cling to that, and remind others that they were there with you, too (even if they weren't). You're going to remember that first walk to Red Bull Arena, the stadium that was built in Harrison, a town where soccer has ruled since … well … forever.
It hasn't been an easy ride. You've seen a lot of players and coaches pass through in the last 18 years. You survived a couple of changes in ownership. You've endured head-scratching trades, not to mention incredible own goals and penalty kick encroachments.
But the point is you've endured.
Only now there's a threat on the way. Can't you hear them now, singing songs they'll surely steal from "Citeh?" Can't you sense they're already entitled and arrogant?
Sure you can, and, guess what? This is exactly what we needed. You won't have to deal with them until 2015, but it makes sense to prepare now. Red Bulls vs. NYCFC. It's on.
As we like to say on this side of the river: Are you ready? Or what?