Monday, May 24, 2010

A Busy Weekend at Red Bull Arena

When the Red Bulls announced that they would be taking on Juventus in a friendly just one day after Red Bull Arena hosted its first ever international match - between Turkey and the Czech Republic - I decided to make a weekend of it and book a hotel in Harrison.  I'm not big on meaningless games, but I'm having a hard time saying no to any game at the Cathedral of Football.  Besides, with my wife out of town, I needed to entertain my kids somehow, right?  In exchange for letting Daddy get his fill of soccer, they got to swim in the hotel pool until they shriveled up into raisins.  Fair trade off. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Turkey/Czech game on Saturday, but as we got closer to the stadium we could tell that about 95% of the crowd was pro-Turkey from the abundance of flags, t-shirts, Turkish club jerseys and banners.  Once we got settled into our seats in 107, I did notice a small section of Czech fans in that corner of the Arena, though I had a Besiktas supporter and his family to my right, a Bursaspor supporter directly in front of me and some Galatasaray fans to my left.  Everyone I spoke with was very positive about the stadium.  How many of them will ever return is hard to say.

As for the game itself, after a bit of a slow start it burst to life when the Turkish left winger Arda Turan danced along the end line and slammed the opening goal past Petr Cech.  Turan would later provide a great assist for the Turks second goal before the Czechs managed to get one back late on.  It will be interesting to see how the USMNT deals with these two sides in their upcoming friendly matches.  The Turks are clearly the more dangerous team, with Arda in particular looking threatening every time he touched the ball.  I would expect a big club in England, Spain or Italy to snap him up soon - he's that good.  The Czechs looked relatively weak, though they were missing key players, such as Milan Baros and Tomas Rosicky.  Regardless, they should present less of a challenge to the Americans.

For me, it was just great to see something a little different and to get a taste of international soccer at RBA.  At one point, the fans in the upper deck rolled out an eye-poppingly massive Turkish flag, the most impressive tifo I've seen so far at RBA.  As a Chelsea fan, I also got the chance to see Petr Cech perform on American soil (yes, he even wears the headgear in warmups). That was a treat. Unfortunately, my daughter decided to delete all of my photos and video from Saturday and most from Sunday, so I have less to share than I'd like.

For the Juve game, I decided to get seats up in the first row of 201, above the supporters' sections.  Having now taken in a game up there, I will definitely be doing it again sometime.  The view of the pitch and the entire arena is spectacular, you have a great view of the video board and the team benches and you're still right on top of the action.

The Juventus supporters were large in number but mostly quiet throughout the match. Of course it didn't help their mood that they were dominated by what was essentially the Red Bulls reserve team.  With players like Del Piero, Trezeguet, Diego and Grosso on the pitch I really expected to see at least a few moments of the quality from the Italians, but apart from the late garbage goal by Amauri and Del Piero striking the very top of the crossbar at one point in the first half, I don't recall them threatening much.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, got outstanding performances from Tchani, Garcia, Chinn and Ubiparipovic.  Tchani, apart from a misplayed pass or two, looked commanding and assured in midfield.  Seeing an unheralded player such as little #99 terrorize the Italian international Grosso made me feel great about the talent the Red Bulls managed to pull from this year's draft.  Garcia's rocket of a shot that came out of nowhere, resulting in Jeremy Hall's opener, was probably the thing I will remember most from this match.  If I were an underperforming member of the Red Bulls first team I'd be watching my back.  Ubiparipovic and Tchani are quickly staking their claim as midfield starters.  Seth Stammler's usual second half headless chicken routine did nothing to convince me that he deserves a place in our starting XI.  In the near term, Hans Backe will have some interesting decisions to make.

Naturally, the Juve players are already downplaying the defeat, claiming that they were fatigued by travel and the long Italian season.  OK, that may be somewhat legitimate, but you never want your world class players to get beaten by MLS reserves.  As the Juve fan I interviewed in my video points out, the Old Lady of Italian Football is just coming off a season to forget.  On Sunday, they looked at times like they had already taken off on vacation.  The Baby Bulls, meanwhile, looked hungry and confident.  That's the biggest thing I will take away from the weekend.  Well that and the great dinner we had at Spanish Pavillion.

Please click here for a very nice Zimbio photo album of the TurkeyCzech Republic game. You can also click here for a very nice photo album from the RBNY/Juventus game, courtesy of American Soccer News. And here's another RBNY/Juventus game photo album, courtesy of Red Bulls Official on Facebook. Is it too late to change my Juve 4 Red Bulls 1 prediction?
blog comments powered by Disqus