NYCFC hopes Cathedral will strike fear in opponents

NYCFC hopes Cathedral will strike fear in opponents

NEW YORK -- It's finally starting to feel a little bit like home.

New York City Football Club is settling into Yankee Stadium, and it invited the media to an open practice Wednesday in advance of its second home game. NYCFC will take on Sporting Kansas City at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night, and the players are hoping for another capacity crowd.

More than 43,000 fans came out to watch NYCFC take a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on March 15, and the players said they were thrilled with the field conditions. Now, said midfielder Mix Diskerud, it's time to turn the Yankee Stadium pitch into a fearsome home-field advantage.

"The grass is getting greener every time I see the field," said Diskerud during a field-side interview with the media. "It was a great experience last time, and hopefully, we'll get another sellout."

Diskerud, just two weeks ago, had the honor of scoring NYCFC's first goal in a regular-season game. The 24-year-old Norway native put New York's newest sports franchise ahead in its debut game against Orlando City, but a last-minute goal from Kaká rendered that game a tie. NYCFC responded with its home victory over New England, and its most recent game was a tie on the road against Colorado.

Now, NYCFC will be taking the field at Yankee Stadium on Saturday for the final time before Opening Day of the baseball season, and the two teams will share the premises for the rest of the year. NYCFC coach Jason Kreis is hoping some of the Yankees fan frenzy will transfer over to his team.

"I thought it was fantastic in the first game, and I'm hopeful we can continue that going forward and even look for some improvement," said Kreis. "I'm hoping that the atmosphere can be very, very daunting for any opponent to come into here and think that they're going to walk away with anything."

Much of the media attention around NYCFC has centered around captain David Villa, the all-time leading scorer in the history of Spain's national team. Villa, who scored and delivered an assist in the first game at Yankee Stadium, said Wednesday that he prefers not to be the focal point of the team.

"First of all, I want to point out that I don't like to be called a star. I don't feel like I'm a star," said Villa via his interpreter after the team's practice. "I'm just one more player. I'm very happy to be here.

"We're excited to build something that I think is going to be very big. I'm very happy and honored to be a part of it. And I'm pretty sure that in the future, it's going to be even better."

Villa, who previously starred for Valencia, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid in his homeland, said that he's been thrilled to play in Major League Soccer and that not much has surprised him about his transition. He also said Wednesday that his new home stadium has made a great first impression.

"I had the chance to play here before with the Spanish national team, and that was a wonderful experience and very meaningful for many of us," Villa said. "You can ask any of my teammates about that. To know this is going to be our home stadium every two weeks, it's very positive. It's pretty nice. Also, looking at how it was for the first home game, the expectation and the fans, it was wonderful."

Kreis has said time and time again that he doesn't expect his players to be a finished product, and he hopes to see them make steady progress over the course of the season. As he evaluates his team, Kreis knows that there's a little bit to be proud of and a whole lot to improve from week to week.

"For me, to get three points in the home games and one point on the road, that at a baseline is acceptable," said Kreis. "But do I think there could've been more? Absolutely. ... I'm still looking for better, but I'm also pleased with where we are. I don't think it's an amazing start by any means."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.