NEW YORK – Where were you when the first shots were fired in the budding rivalry between New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls?
Mix Diskerud was in the heart of Times Square.
“Right now, I just have a message for all New Yorkers: New York City FC is your team,” the US International said at a jersey release event there Monday.
“I hate the Red Bull,” he continued with a laugh, while also acknowledging friendships with players from the other side of the Hudson River.
Diskerud said one of the most intriguing aspects of his move to MLS was starting a new project, and building a fan base, from scratch.
“It’s a whole new franchise here in New York,” he said. “We’re trying to get the New Yorkers out, and instead of them going to another event we want to make them come out to Yankee Stadium and watch us play.”
Diskerud has also become one of the faces of the new franchise, as evident by a billboard in the middle of Times Square.
“That’s kind of special. I’ve got to admit that,” Diskerud said. “That’s not something I’m used to, but I’ll certainly get used to it hopefully.”
One of the biggest challenges for Diskerud in the preseason, he said, was getting to know a whole new team after missing the first two weeks of camp while attending US national team camp in January.
Diskerud said that was what made this preseason different than any other he’s been a part of in the past. The bonding, he said, has taken place at the training grounds and in restaurants.
“It’s just building relations, building new formations,” he said. “We’re trying to excite a whole city, the city of New York, which is special as well. That’s a challenge. It’s awesome. I like that.”
And what can fans expect from the expansion side?
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“Great football because we have players who like to play and want to play one- and two-touch and excite the crowd,” he said.
Diskerud’s first MLS season begins Sunday when NYCFC head to Florida to take on fellow expansion side Orlando FC (5 pm ET; ESPN2), who feature their own US international in Brek Shea along with Brazilian star Kaka. It’s a team Diskerud is familiar with, having faced them in the preseason.
But he knows the season – and franchise – opener will be very special with a sellout expected at the renovated Citrus Bowl.
“I heard it was what, 60-65,000 people coming to the game. I didn’t know it was going to be sold out like that. That’s huge. I can’t wait,” he said. “Of course, Kaka is a superstar, and he’s been through a lot. And Brek Shea is a good friend of mine, so I can’t wait to play against them.”