Wednesday, May 07, 2008

New York Red Bulls - San Jose Earthquakes (27-04-2008)

As I had to be in New York City for work – I know, what a drag – I took the opportunity to finally see a game of professional 'soccer' in the city… well, technically, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, but whatever. Of course, New York will always remain linked to the famous Cosmos team, which include Brazilian superstar Pele, but since the start of the MLS (Major League Soccer) in 1996, the city team has been the New York/New Jersey Metrostars; after 1997 known as only 'Metrostars' (which, in 2000, signed German superstar Lothar Matthaus!). In a weird event, the Red Bull company bought the Metrostars just before the 2006 season, changing the name to Red Bull New York (similar to their buy of SV Salzburg and the consequent transformation into FC Red Bull Salzburg).

After an unexpectedly quick drive from Queens, we arrived early at the huge Giants Stadium, the 80,242 capacity home of the New York Giants; winners of the 2008 Super Bowl! We bought tickets for a steep 30 USD each, the cheapest tickets were 22 USD, and made our way through the huge empty stadium to find our seats. As always before the beginning of a sports game in the US, we started with the singing of the national anthem.

I had a really hard time estimating the size of the crowd, and was surprised to later see the official tally of 9.053 (I had estimated some 5.000). It is not even a bad crowd for a football game in the US, but in a 80.000 stadium, it looks fairly pathetic. Interestingly, the crowd was very mixed, not just in terms of ethnicity but also in age and gender. Not the usual mix of schoolgirls and Mexicans. ;-)

The game was mildly interesting. The Red Bulls had started the season well, having won two and drawn the third previous game, but still performed at the level of a poor Belgian or Norwegian first divisionist. Their key player is Claudio Reyna, former captain of the US national team (112 caps) and former player of teams like Bayer Leverkusen, VFL Wolfsburg, Glasgow Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City. Even at 35 he is much better than everyone else at the pitch – although Juan Pablo Angel (formerly of River Plate, Aston Villa and the Colombian national team) didn’t play. From the first half I noted a safe from the goal line after a good attack by Reyna (38th minute) and a Red Bulls header just over (41st minute). Anyway, after 45 minutes of fairly poor football, the score was still 0-0.

In the second half, the young star of the New York Red Bulls, Jozy Altidore, finally made an impact on the game. Every action of 19y old Joy was greeted by enthusiastic cheers of male fans and (over)excited squeals of female fans (particularly of the group of young black girls in front of us), but so far he had not showed his potential to be the new Freddy Adu. In fact, I wasn’t very impressed by his fall in the 78th minute, but it gave the hosts a penalty kick.

With only 10 minutes to go, everyone in the stadium was happy and relieved that the New York Red Bulls stayed on course for the championship. The small group of hardcore home fans, the only ones allowed in a section behind the goal, celebrated in style, uncovering the official banner (undoubtedly provided by the sponsor).

And they even received a second present, this time in the form of a real goal by Jozy Altidore. In the dying 95th minute the young superstar made his mark on the game after all. Although I still haven’t seen it, everyone in the stadium was convinced: New York Red Bulls have the new American Pele in their midst, and he is a young boy from Florida!

I don’t think I will ever get used to it, watching a football game in an empty huge stadium. If Red Bulls would really like to do something for football in New York, they should build a new, smaller, exclusive football stadium. Wow, wait a minute, that is exactly what they are planning to do, with the new Red Bull Park. Hopefully, as of 2010, the New York Red Bulls will play in a 25.000 soccer-specific stadium (SSS) in Harrison, New Jersey. I’m sure that will increase the crowds and improve the atmosphere. On the level of play, however, I am less optimistic.

1 comment:

pst. said...

dear Grondhopper,
since you are undoubtedly one of the few people on this continent who know anything about soccer in the US, you can probably help us. Are there any interesting websites devoted to US-soccer? What is the best way to keep abreast of what is happening on American soccerfields?
And on a more personal note: what is your favourite US soccer team?