Jason Kreis, the coach of NYCFC, had seen games like this before. He scored the first goal for two different MLS franchises and later led Real Salt Lake to a league championship as coach. And now, playing in Yankee Stadium, Kreis couldn't help but try to bottle the moment.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the atmosphere the fans brought today," said Kreis, who finished his playing career as one of the top five scorers in MLS history. "The fans were great and there was a nervous moment for me, to not know what the fans would be like here. To meet them for the first time, I couldn't be happier with the support we had and the atmosphere we had in the stadium."
The stadium playing surface, familiar from countless telecasts, looked a little different on Sunday. Third base and home plate -- the latter spot covered by an NYCFC logo -- were the only elements of the baseball diamond in place for the soccer game. The pitcher's mound, lowered and covered by a tarp, sat right off the sideline, and traces of the baselines were evident just off the playing surface.
But one thing -- the capacity crowd -- had all the earmarks of a summer pennant race.
NYCFC officials said that more than 43,000 fans were in attendance for the inaugural game at Yankee Stadium, and there was so much demand that the stadium's upper deck was open. Future games, without the upper deck seating, are expected to have a capacity crowd of less than 28,000.
Claudio Reyna, one of the best players in American soccer history, had a front-row seat for the game. Reyna, a New Jersey native, is now employed as the sporting director for NYCFC, and he said he was proud of the way the local fans stepped up to support New York's newest franchise.
"We hope the fans went away happy and proud that the team gave everything," said Reyna, who made 111 appearances for Team USA. "You have a lot of fans here who are from the boroughs and want to support a team from New York City. "
In this case, they weren't just seeing a good team: They were seeing one of the world's best players settling into his new environment. Villa won the World Cup and the European Championship with Spain, and he played a prominent role for teams like Valencia and FC Barcelona in Europe.
The crowd, which had chanted "New York City" throughout the first half, gave Villa a rapturous reaction to his first goal, a sound which had been duplicated countless times before in baseball.
The condition of the field was heartily discussed in the weeks leading up to Sunday's game, but Kreis said it passed whatever test the players could muster. It wasn't an easy job, he said, for a grounds crew used to maintaining a baseball field, but it was everything the team could've expected.
"This was a tremendous challenge that was placed in front of the groundskeepers here at Yankee Stadium in order to get the field prepared after all the difficult weather we've had," said Kreis. "For me, it was fantastic, the fact that they were able to put that together for us in such a short time. ... I think this will continue to get better and better and better as they understand what we're looking for."