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NYCFC players hope team will grow sport in Big Apple

David Villa of New York City FC during

David Villa of New York City FC during an MLS match against Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sunday marks the end of the beginning for New York City FC.

New York's new soccer team will take the pitch at Yankee Stadium for the first time as it looks to put an end to questions about everything from the state of the sod to the cohesiveness of the squad.

NYCFC's first game ended in a 1-1 draw that was equal parts satisfying and frustrating for the club. Growing pains showed, but it held its own in front of 62,000 opposing fans of the expansion Orlando City SC.

Now, it's New York's turn to make a statement in front of the home crowd. More than 30,000 people are expected to head to the Bronx on Sunday to see Spanish star David Villa and a host of MLS talent. The numbers prompted the team to open the 400 level as it also announced it had reached the 15,000 season ticket mark.

Mix Diskerud, who scored the first goal in team history, said at media day on Wednesday he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of knowledgeable soccer fans he's come across since he came to New York. He looks forward to getting young New Yorkers involved for the future of the sport the same way he was drawn in while watching his favorite Norwegian team as a child.

"I hope people who come here and watch the games, the younger guys, they feel they can maybe in the future be a part of this team," Diskerud said. "It's not just a team you go out and watch. It's something you can be a part of."

When Diskerud steps onto the pitch Sunday, it could be one of the first times he's seen it. As of Wednesday, he had yet to see it at all, let alone play on it.

"It's not normal, but this is a whole new team," Diskerud said. "Nothing's normal right now."

The pitch is 110 yards by 70 yards, which is the smallest for regulation size. It's expected to get a lot of wear through the summer with NYCFC and the Yankees sharing the surface. Published reports from spring training said Yankees players were concerned about it.

The general response from NYCFC players at media day was that they'd adjust to whatever conditions they had to deal with when the time came. In MLS, where both grass and turf is used, change is nothing new.

"As an athlete, I just think it's something I can't concern myself with," Chris Wingert said. "I have no control over how good or poor the field may be."

What players can control this weekend is their play on the field in front of fans that have already shown a commitment to them for the home opener and far beyond it.

"This city has shown that their supporters are second to none," Jason Hernandez said. "I'm really looking forward to getting in front of our fans and giving them something to be proud of."


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