NEW YORK CITY, NY – The population of Hicksville, New York – the hometown of Vancouver Whitecaps FC centre back Tim Parker – is 41,547, according to the latest census.
And about half of them are coming to Yankee Stadium on Saturday for Parker’s homecoming, as Whitecaps FC visit New York City FC for the first time in MLS (1 p.m. PT on TSN1).
OK, not quite half.
But you can forgive Parker if it feels that way.
The 23-year-old said that upwards of 300 friends and family members are planning to attend the game. His father, Ken, is arranging some buses from Hicksville, a small town on Long Island about 35 minutes away from the stadium “on a good day,” Parker said.
It’s a game Parker – and his family – have had circled on their calendars for quite some time.
“It’s exciting, and maybe a bit overdone, but I think it will be fun,” Parker said this week. “My dad has been setting this up for a couple of months, so he’s excited and I’m extremely excited as well.”
Put yourself in Parker’s shoes for a second. Born and raised in New York, Parker remembers riding his uncle’s firetruck in the Bronx on his way to Yankee Stadium to watch the likes of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez etch their names into the Yankees’ record books.
He wasn’t necessarily a huge baseball fan, but the allure of Yankee Stadium was still ever present.
He is a New Yorker, after all.
“As a kid growing up in New York, Yankee Stadium is kind of this godsend,” said Parker, who attended St. John's University in New York. “Especially [at that time], when they won so many championships. So many greats came out of there.”
A few greats are still kicking around. Literally.
New York City FC’s star-studded roster features the likes of English midfielder Frank Lampard, Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and Spanish striker David Villa, though Lampard has yet to play a game this season due to injury.
Combined, the trio have played in eight World Cups for their respective nations.
Parker played against the trio last year in Vancouver's 2-1 defeat to New York City FC at BC Place. He'll be tasked with trying to shut them down again on Saturday – at least Pirlo and Villa.
It's a tough task on a good day.
Last year against Vancouver, Pirlo had an assist and Villa scored a late-winner after a controversial PK. And although NYCFC has been struggling a bit as of late, it won't get any easier this weekend with Parker's centre back partner Kendall Waston unavailable due to suspension.
But you can bet Parker will be up for the challenge.
He currently leads the 'Caps with 50 clearances, the second highest total in MLS, and is second on the team with 22 interceptions.
Not bad for a second-year pro.
This is also New York’s second season in MLS. Initially, the plan was for them to build their own stadium in Queens, but that didn’t work out. The latest plans have them building a stadium in the Bronx, adjacent to Yankee Stadium. For now, though, Yankee Stadium is their home.
Parker never thought he’d be involved in a soccer game at Yankee Stadium, though he did watch a couple Notre Dame football games there, and neither did Carl Robinson. The ‘Caps head coach once attended a baseball game at Yankee Stadium when he was playing for New York Red Bulls. Asked what it will be like to play a soccer game there, he said: “Different.”
That’s for sure.
It’s a narrow field – 100 yards long by 70 yards wide. In fact, it’s the smallest field in MLS as well as the smallest allowed by FIFA guidelines. That means less time to make decisions, quicker counter-attacks, and potentially more dangerous long throw-ins.
In other words, less room for error.
You can also still see the baseball diamond, though it’s somewhat faded on the playing surface. Fortunately, the pitcher’s mound and home plate (which are both covered) are just outside the playing surface.
“It will be different going for a soccer match,” Robinson told reporters this week. “But listen, it’s a great environment to go and play in.”
And for Parker’s crew, hopefully it’s a great environment to watch, too.
Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.