Friday, July 31, 2009

Colorado Rapids – New York Red Bulls (25-07-2009)

Although tired, I had little problems with making the 537 miles (865 km) from Sandy, Utah to Commerce City, Colorado in time for the third and last game of the road trip. The Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is a soccer-specific stadium in a northeastern suburb of Denver; as so much in the US, it is only reachable by car.

It was opened in April 2007 and is the home of the Colorado Rapids (MLS) and the Denver Dream of the Lingerie Football League (a women’s American football league; really, it exists!). Its capacity for football games is 18,086 (all seating) and most Colorado Rapids games are near capacity. For this Saturday night game against New York Red Bulls official attendance was 16,816, although I doubt more than 13,000 were actually in the stadium (the curse of corporate tickets?). However, the crowd was remarkably diverse in terms of age, gender and ethnicity.

I had again opted for a ‘cheap’ ticket at $20, which put me in my trusted spot in the corner of the pitch. But before I took my seat, I first sampled the excellent stadium food, which included a very tasty chicken tender basket ($6.25) and a Jamba Juice smoothie ($5). Let the game begin…. uhm, well, after the national anthem, of course.

Colorado is having a mediocre season and was clearly looking forward to playing the even more struggling Red Bulls. Still, it would be the visitors who would have the first ‘chance’, a shot from 25 meter well over the goal. That would also be the only semi-serious ‘threat’ of the Red Bulls that evening. This notwithstanding, I would hardly hear the Rapids ‘ultras’ this evening; in fact, I could hardly locate them.

In the 5th minute the Rapids created a great counter attack over the right wing and the low pass was easily finished in the middle: 1-0. Shortly after that it started to rain quite heavily, but people seemed well prepared and continued to enjoy the game in their colorful rain coats.

And they would be well rewarded for their perseverance, but not just yet. Because of the bad weather and many interruptions (injuries) the first half just dragged out. While both teams created some chances, no one was able to finish them. The Red Bulls thus remained in the game, despite their fumbling goalie, until one of their defenders mad a nasty late tackle in the second minute of extra time and received a well deserved red card. Half time: 1-0 and one man more for the Rapids!

After a diverse half time entertainment program, which featured amateur cheerleaders and kids football, everyone was eager to see the second half play out. They wouldn’t have to wait long for the inevitable: already in the 46th minute a clever through pass was coolly finished: 2-0. Game over, as even the few Red Bulls fans accepted, seeking their entertainment around the drink stands instead.

With a 2-0 lead and a man more on the pitch, the Rapids shifted to an even lower pace, which gave the Red Bulls some air to breathe. Still, with such an unreliable goalie another goal was inevitable, and after a terrible fumble Real could not but score the rebound: 0-3 in the 60th minute.

It was painful to see how poor the Red Bulls were both collectively and individually. No wonder they are at the bottom of their division. The 66th minute provided the highlight of the evening, a beautiful free kick in the top far corner (captured equally beautifully by yours truly): 4-0.

Despite the fact that this launched a wave to go through the stadium for minutes, the rest of the game was a brutal example of anti-football. The last 20 minutes were simply pissed away on the pitch. Rather than making the most of this near perfect situation, and work on your goal difference, the Rapids players decided to simply pass the ball around and let the minutes eat away; who cares about the fans who have suffered through almost an hour of rain. Hence, 4-0 was also the final score.

Although the game never really took off, because of the weakness and stupidity of the Red Bulls, it is clear that the Colorado Rapids are another MLS team with a solid support base and professional infrastructure. While the numbers are not very impressive, they do make for a well-filled stadium and decent atmosphere.

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