Monday, July 26, 2010

Barclays New York Challenge Day 3: Deadly Dane!

The Red Bulls wrapped up a successful Barclays New York Challenge yesterday with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City, thanks to an absolute rocket off the foot of Dane Richards, reminiscent of his golazo against Santos FC in the Red Bull Arena opener back in March.  As the great You Suck Corrales points out in our post-game video above (sorry for the intermittent audio issues), Dane Richards just may be the greatest club friendly player in the history of MLS.  In addition to his goal, Richards' outstanding run was instrumental in setting up Mac Kandji's first half strike as well.  The twice-abused Wayne Bridge may be having nightmares about the speedy Jamaican.

But it wasn't just the Dane Richards Show on Sunday.  Ever since the arrival of Thierry Henry, the entire Red Bulls squad has looked more focused.  Passes have been crisper, movement has been better and the flow through midfield, which had been choked off in the last two league games, seems to have opened up again.  I've been as impressed with Henry's vision and his ability to put teammates in good positions as I have been about his own attacking prowess.  The scary part - for other MLS teams at least - is that we haven't even been able to see a full 90 from TH14 yet, let alone the dream pairing with Angel.  Hans Backe again pulled the Frenchman at half time, smartly keeping his powder dry for the next league game against Houston.  Angel, meanwhile, was not risked on a surface made somewhat slippery by rain showers. 

Fortunately, Henry and Angel's production was not needed on a day when Manchester City fielded what was largely a reserve team, with a few starters thrown in.  Emmanuel Adebayor, booed every time he touched the ball by the Red Bulls' suddenly sizable Gooner contingent, was a constant threat, but a lot of the starters were relative unknowns, except perhaps to avid Man City fans such as my friend Tom Hayden, who came up from Virginia for the game (yes, he's a DC United fan as well - not my fault). 

The 1pm game, played in hot and steamy conditions, featured eventual Challenge winners Sporting Lisbon against Tottenham Hotspur.  There is a compilation of highlights from the game available on YouTube.  The Matias goal for Sporting was a thing of beauty, but I'd still give the nod to Dane for goal of the tournament. 

Now a few gripes.  There has been quite a lot of hand-wringing about the fact that Red Bull Arena is not full to capacity week in week out.  But the simple fact of the matter is that the stadium concessions and facilities are not currently in any state to accommodate capacity crowds.  Beer, food and bathroom lines snake around the concourses, especially in the congested area around Gate A.  It was so bad on Sunday that patrons sometimes had to stand in line for 20 minutes. The Red Bulls have assured us that they are doing everything possible to alleviate the problem, which, it seems to me, is a combination of understaffing, poor training and disorganization.  It probably doesn't help that the men's and ladies rooms on the west side of the stadium only have one door.  In any case, with Henry in the fold and Marquez likely on the way, the club needs to make it a priority to fix these problems as soon as possible, because they are putting a major kink in what is otherwise a great experience.

My second and final gripe (I promise) concerns the Portuguese fans who showed up to see their beloved Sporting and then left immediately after the game.  Now fans are perfectly within their rights to come and go as they please, but when entire rows of supporters are not bothered enough to stick around and watch the local team take on a European powerhouse you have to wonder if there is even a remote possibility of converting them into RBNY/MLS fans.  I once hoped that the Red Bulls would catch fire with the local Portuguese and Brazilian communities in the Ironbound, but there have been very few signs of progress in this regard.  Red Bulls fans have been patronizing the local bars and restaurants in droves, and I personally love the neighborhood, but the relationship between Red Bull and the Ironbound seems to be a bit of a one-way street.  Maybe I should not be surprised, but it's disappointing.

In addition to my post-game video (viper was otherwise occupied at a youth soccer tournament in Pennsylvania), you can view our pre-game comments here.  Unfortunately, my half-time comments video experienced technical difficulties, but shout out to Matt Scarano and Dan Feuerstein for joining me anyway.  Thanks to Justin and James Cureton for providing post-game comments outside the Arena.  If you're on Twitter, you can follow them at @racecarduser and @blancthebody respectively - two great Red Bulls fans from the Bronx who bring passion and bring the noise every time they are out at the Cathedral of Football.  You will also notice that Joel Lindpere was outside the stadium after the game, chatting with fans and shaking hands.  The Estonian Express is quickly becoming a fan favorite and it's easy to see why.
blog comments powered by Disqus