“Ten bucks for parking?!”
The disinterested parking attendant nodded glumly and shrugged.
“For this? For a semi-pro soccer team? Geez. Fine.”
With that, our first foray into professional soccer in New Haven began on a beautiful, Saturday afternoon in May against our hated rivals from exactly two weeks ago, Hartford City FC. (Nice nickname you nerds. Nobody calls it “Hartford City.”)
Luckily, tickets are only 10 bucks, too, so I’m not SUPER pissed off about it.
Before we get to the game, let’s get to the best reason to enjoy an Elm City Express game:
That’s right, according to the “Stadium Rules,” here’s the highlights:
- Parking for this Saturday’s Elm City Express match will be in the Yale Bowl Lot (right off of Central Avenue), available from 4 pm on. Tailgating OK, but no charcoal grills permitted.Alcohol and Drugs:
- The possession, use, sale, distribution, cultivation, or manufacture of alcohol or illegal drugs is prohibited.
- Outside Food: Outside food and/or beverages may not be brought into or onto the Premises without prior permission.
So no cultivating drugs guys, okay?
We setup a nice little tailgate with one of those portable Coleman grills you see everywhere. Sat back in our lawn chairs, drank a few beers, definitely didn’t cultivate any drugs whatsoever, and soaked up the sun while a bunch of Hartford City FC fans chanted from their weird ambulance 500 feet away.
I don’t know why you can’t bring food because they sure as heck don’t sell it there. Also, there is legitimately no security, so. If you do bring in a Diet Coke, like Yours Truly, it’s probably okay. Just don’t flaunt it.
But be cool ok? When people aren’t cool is when you ruin the fun for everyone. And I’m everyone.
Pro Tip: You can take the Q bus right by there! Why pay to park when you can drag your portable grill on the bus…… ?
A Beautiful Backdrop for Soccer
I’d never been to Reese Stadium, as I do not count myself as a Yale fan (Go UConn!), but my, what a glorious view it is.
The old field house (?) in the back is a lovely background for soccer, and I have to say, I was reasonably impressed by the crowd.
Sure, it was mostly kids who kept telling us to GIVE THEM AN E! which got pretty old after an hour or so, but nonetheless.
I knew it was a proper soccer match once one of the fans started screaming at a ref about his Man Bun for getting a call wrong.
Sure, it was a friend of mine, but I can’t control these animals, okay?
People seemed to be having a really fun time and enjoying the brisk spring weather. Of course, the entire thing was ruined when Hartford City (still dumb) scored at the last possible minute after time-wasting, but hey… what could be more Connecticut than a sudden collapse right at the end?
Nothing, that’s what.
Who are the Elm City Express, anyway?
After scouring their web page for information, I can say… I’m not entirely sure.
They’re a “professional” soccer club owned by K2 America, which is a partnership with a Brazilian company which owns a few small soccer clubs out in Brazil.
They play in the National Premiere Soccer League. Which is the fourth tier of professional soccer (really amateur) in the US (MLS is first, NASL/USL is second, etc). The NPSL is a very exclusive soccer league consisting of only 96 teams over four conferences.
The Elm City Express play in the Atlantic Blue division with such other stalwarts as New York Cosmos B, Seacoast United Phantoms, and of course, the Brooklyn Italians.
But hey, it turns out we’re actually pretty good:
According to Wikipedia, it’s mostly college soccer athletes looking to keep playing during the break while maintaining amateur status. But also possibly some semi-professionals as well.
You can also get one of these sweet kits from the online store for a cool 45 bucks:
We also have an official Supporters Group! And they’re called… the Yard Dogs. Yep.
Who are the Yard Dogs?
Before the game started, an NPR reporter came over and asked if we were a part of the “Yard Dogs.” We had no idea what he was talking about, but it turns out it’s the first Supporters’ Club for the New England Express.
Why the Yard Dogs? According to Zach Jones, Event Co-ordinator and Social Media, they “originally were the ‘Rail Yard Dogs’ (a dog that protects a Train Yard) but Yard Dogs was shorter and simpler after some voting.”
See, folks, democracy just doesn’t work.
Originally a group of Italian soccer fans, they formed the club to support New Haven’s first (I think?) soccer team. Plus they have a pretty cool logo:
A friend of mine/fellow member, Joey, added, quite succinctly, I’ll say:
“It seems as if for years, people have been clamoring for CT to get a pro sports team back after the departure of the Whalers. Now that we finally have one, we decided that we have to embrace it if we really want it succeed. You can’t complain about not having something if you don’t appreciate it while it’s here, right? We’re extremely proud the team decided to call New Haven its home and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Let’s just pretend the whole Yard Goats/Dogs thing isn’t a real problem, cool? Cool.
Will it last?
I have no idea what the business model is. Or if it’ll last. Or who is getting paid.
But I know on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I had a pretty good time drinking beers and yelling at refs over a game I barely knew existed a month ago.
The Ravens ain’t coming back. This is all we got, New Haven.
So if you’re looking for something to do on Friday, June 9th, we’re taking on the vaunted “TSF Academy,” which is totally a legitimate thing.
I’ll see you there. Stop and say hi.