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Know Your MLS Teams: New York Red Bulls

 Posted by on May 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm  Blogs/Media
May 262013

970080 10151403444585264 479583300 n 300x241 Know Your MLS Teams: New York Red Bulls



Founded: 1996 (Was previously known as the New York/New Jersey Metrostars)

Where They Finished Last Season: 16-9-9 (Lost to D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs)

Pedigree: Runners-Up, 2008 MLS Cup (Lost to Columbus Crew)

Rivals: D.C. United, New England Revolution, and the Philadelphia Union.

Supporters: Empire Supporters Club, Raging Bull Nation, the GardenState Supporters, the Viking Army, and the Kearny Army.

Coach: Mike Petke

Top Returning Players: DEF Heath Pearce, DEF Roy Miller, MF Dax McCarty, MF Tim Cahill, FWD Theirry Henry

Key Additions: GK Luis Robles (Karlsruher SC-Germany,) DEF Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake,) MF Juninho (Vasco Da Gama,) MF Jonny Steele (Real Salt Lake,) FWD Fabian Espindola (Real Salt Lake.)

Key Departures: DEF Rafael Marquez (Liga MX,) MF Teemu Taino (HJK Helsinki –Finland,) MF Joel Lindpere (Chicago Fire,) MF Jan Gunnar Soli (Valerenga-Norway,) FWD Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas.)

Young Player to Watch: DEF Connor Lade, FWD Amando Moreno.


There are many great myths about MLS. That no one goes to the games (myth.) That the league puts out an inferior product relative to the rest of the world (myth- It puts out an inferior product relative to that of the top European leagues.) But one of the greatest myths about MLS is a media creation: that the New York Red Bulls are a franchise that wins major titles with big stars. It is the New  York presence, the glamour, Broadway, Madison Avenue, and all of the cropped photos that Joe Buck tells you what makes New York. There is only one problem with this: while many stars have come to New York Red Bulls (or previously the Metrostars,) the club has never won an MLS title. It has never won a Supporter’s Shield, never won the U.S. Open Cup, and has only once competed in the CONCACAF Champions  League. The club has always been a playoff contender, having made the playoffs in all but three years of its existence.  While that may be considered a success for any team, in New York (or in New Jersey for that matter) second best is not good enough. *Cue generic message about the New York Yankees, New York Rangers, Bruno Sammartino and the one time the Knicks won a title and how New York is a town of champions.* And with this week’s announcement that the New York Yankees and Manchester City are acquiring  an MLS franchise, one has to wonder what the future holds for the Red Bulls.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen to NYRB in 2015 when their brethren open their stadium in Queens, the Red Bulls have made some significant upgrades to their team for the 2013 campaign. It may sound odd to say, but even a club that features Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry needs to make improvements. While the 2012 Red Bulls team had probably more talent than any team in the league, other than Los Angeles Galaxy, their chemistry was awful. Much of this has to do with Rafa Marquez. Marquez is a classless buffoon, someone who takes cheap shots on players and does not care about the consequences. In two consecutive campaigns, he has cost his team the chance to finally live up to their hype. He is all of the things that give soccer/football a bad name and its detractors in the United States their ammo in their war to denigrate the sport.

If Marquez was culprit number one in the plight of the Red Bulls, then former coach Hans Baacke was number two.  Hans, to me, represented the worst of what MLS has been. A foreign coach who knows nothing of the game here in the United States and yet comes in expecting to impose a system that is foreign to his players. I am not going to criticize him for not showing up to U.S. Open Cup matches. Most MLS teams do not take the U.S. Open Cup seriously (Interestingly enough, the teams that do take it seriously Seattle, Portland, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Jose have some of the most loyal and dependable fans. Coincidence?) What I do take exception to is his refusal to play younger players, for not substituting out hot head Marquez in a playoff game, and not figuring out a system to work a natural combination of Henry and Kenny Cooper in a more efficient manner. I am not sure if Mike Petke is the answer as a coach right now. But what I do think is that he is someone that they respect, having seen his dedication on and off the pitch.

Thankfully this season Mr. Marquez and Mr. Baacke have left the Red Bulls and given the team the opportunity to grow for the better. While I am sure that Red Bulls management thought that their big signing of Juninho would be their crowning achievement of the offseason, it was their trade with Real Salt Lake that landed them the likes of Jamison Olave, Jonny Steele, and Fabian Espindola that has truly galvanized this team. Juninho will be a valuable part in the Red Bulls 2013 campaign, but he must adapt to the physical nature of MLS. The Brazilian style has never lent itself well to the physical nature of football, and in particular MLS. This is precisely why players from Argentina have fared better in MLS than Brazil.

Jonny Steele is a truly fascinating story. A product of the WolverhamptonWanderersAcademy, Steele has had sort of a journeyman career, working his way through the lower levels of U.S. Soccer (including playing for indoor legends the Baltimore Blast.) More of a defensive midfielder, Steele provides support for NYRB’s more attack minded mid-fielders like Juninho and Dax McCarty. Espindola has scored 3 goals in matches so far and has proven to be an excellent complement to Henry.  Olave, 2010 MLS Defender of the year has the ability to make excellent technical tackles and can distribute crisp passes from the back. The acquisition of Goalkeeper Luis Robles has also paid dividends. A seasoned veteran in the German Bundesliga, he seems to be very confident in commanding a team with the likes of Henry, Juninho, and Cahill. While I like Ryan Meara, it seems that he was forced into the starting role well before he was ready. He will be a fantastic goalkeeper in MLS and possibly abroad, but he needs to work on his fundamentals and his command of his defense.

While most people would say that the Red Bulls success is predicated on the work of Henry and Cahill, Red Bull history has proven this to not be true. The Red Bulls, and the Metrostars before them, have made countless flashy signings that have made little difference in the standings. Branco, Lothar Matthaus, Youri Djorkaeff, Eduardo Hurtado, Marcelo Vega, Claudio Reyna. All of these players were high priced signings. All of these players never lived up to their hype while with the Metrostars or the Red Bulls. In this league, foreign players have to understand that they are not bigger than the team. Los Angeles has shown how this can work. Thankfully for Red Bull fans they have two stars in Cahill and Henry who will make the extra effort and not just collect their paycheck. They have bought into Petke’s system and have worked very well with their new teammates.

With the cancers removed from their locker room, the Red Bulls have shown this season that they are a very dangerous team and a force to be reckoned with. Their window seems to be very small: Henry is 34, and Cahill is 33. Plus with the addition of the New   York City franchise in 2015, it is imperative that the Red Bulls win and win now. We may not know much, but with owners like the New York Yankees and Manchester City we know that this will be a team that will spend and have a development system unmatched by the rest of the league. The Red Bulls have all of the talent and chemistry to win the MLS Cup this year.

Beer of Choice: Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brewing Company

While I feel obliged to say that the best drink at a New York Red Bulls game is a Red Bull and Vodka, in honor of their ownership, I have to be completely honest: I absolutely hate Red Bull. It tastes like cough syrup and vodka makes me nauseous.  On the other hand, Brooklyn Brewing Company and Brooklyn is quite good. It tastes very similar to Sam Adams Black Lager in that it tastes like a porter at first, but finishes as a lager. I had my first Brooklyn Lager after working a long day. While flipping through the channels, I spotted the New York Red Bulls and watched as Jozy Altidore tore through an unsuspecting defense. While Altidore no longer plays for the team, Theirry Henry is a good second choice.

Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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