In 2015, New York City got its first new major sports franchise in almost 20 years when New York City FC joined MLS as an expansion team. Setting its homebase at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx gave soccer fans in the five boroughs easier access to a sport that has grown in popularity in recent years.
Filmmaker Justin Webster was there for the formation of the team, captured in his documentary “Win!,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week. The movie gives rare insight into what it takes to build a new sports team from the ground up, as well as covering NYCFC’s turbulent first season.
There was a CIA-level of secrecy while Webster was making the movie, the director told amNewYork.
“There’s so much pressure and media attention and money involved. If we had been talking to the press, it would have been disastrous. What really had to be clear was that everything we were filming was going to be secret until the film comes out.”
Much of the film’s focus is on NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna, who grew up in New Jersey and spent time as captain of the U.S. National Team and playing with the Red Bulls. NYCFC would be the first soccer team he put together.
“I’ve never done this before,” Reyna said. “I had to pinch myself that this was actually happening, then we got into the reality of putting it together, which was very complex because we were literally starting from scratch. It was quite a journey and an experience.”
Reyna shares Webster’s feelings about the difficulties having cameras around.
“At times, we were a bit cautious with the cameras being around what we could say, because you have to talk about moving guys and letting guys go, and everything that happens when you’re putting a team together.”
The first player recruited for NYCFC was team captain David Villa, a member of Spain’s 2010 World Cup-winning team. Villa never had a chance to visit New York City when he came over for games, but location played a part in his choice.
“When you’re deciding on a team, you check all the options possible, and New York was a good city for me and my family,” Villa said. “My first thinking was soccer, but living in the city was important for me, too.”
Despite only playing for one season, the NYCFC has already amassed an enormous army of fans with its supporter club, “The Third Rail,” and growing offshoots like “NYC12.”
Villa is thankful for that fan base and hopes the team can deliver more wins this season under new coach Patrick Vieira.
“It’s positive for the club,” Reyna said about the film. “You can look back at something very unique and something that will never happen in New York again. It’s a credit to the players and everybody involved that let the cameras into our world. The players had a great attitude about it, the staff kind of rolled with it, and the filmmakers and camera guys became part of the group.”
IF YOU GO
“Win!” is screening at the Tribeca Film Festival on at 10 p.m. Monday at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea, 2 p.m. Saturday at Regal Cinemas Battery Park and 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Regal Cinemas Battery Park.