The technical, editorial, and hospitality staff at Backpost have all been Red Bull/MetroStars season-ticket holders since 1996, the first year of MLS’s existence.
When we started watching this franchise, Bill Clinton was in office, Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” was the No. 1 song in the country, and Mickey Kydes was starting in midfield alongside Serie A veteran Roberto Donadoni. (We’re not sure if that qualifies as ironic, but it’s definitely F’d up.)
A few games into that first season, the season-ticket–holding couple in front of us brought their newborn son to the stadium, and we all got a pinkie-grab from the baby and congratulated the new parents. That kid is now bugging his dad for sips of beer during games.
Yes, it’s been a long, and mostly tiring journey for all longtime MetroBull followers, but there is one fan we know who has taken it all harder than anyone. We’ll call him Tom.
Mention former MetroStar striker Antony “Pitufo” De Avila to Tom and step back and watch his radiator overheat. Go ahead and ask Tom about Sergio Galvan Rey, the Colombian who came to the MetroStars with the nickname “King of Goals,” a moniker that quickly became ironic (we checked with Ms. Morrisette)—like calling a big fat guy “Tiny.”
But if you do ask Tom about Galvan Rey, well, you won’t even get to Ruben Dario Hernandez, or Joao Luiz, or Peter Canero, because Tom will have popped a neck vein on SGR.
As the new stadium inched closer to reality this past winter, and even the most embittered MetroBull fans couldn’t help feeling a little optimistic, Tom questioned the images beamed out by the ‘Red Bull cam’ charting the construction progress—like a conspiracy theorist doubting the moon landing.
He refused to believe in the existence of the long-delayed stadium until he actually set foot in it.
As it happened, Tom missed the Grand Opening game against Santos and the MLS home opener against Chicago, both of which the Red Bulls won with some style. He finally made it out to RBA for this past Saturday’s game against FC Dallas, and wouldn’t you know it, the Red Bulls reverted to their form of the bad old days—in every way except the result, an improbable 2-1 victory.
Dallas thoroughly dominated the opening moments, with striker Jeff Cunningham missing two clear chances. In the 10th minute, Dallas defender Heath Pearce got to the endline and crossed to wide-open midfielder Dax McCarty, who headed it in for a 1-0 lead, and it looked like there’d be plenty more where that came from.
But then the Red Bulls started to get a grip on the game—even as Dallas hit a post and a crossbar in the opening stages of the second half—and equalized on a nice combination between Joel Lindpere and Juan Pablo Angel in the 56th minute. It was JPA’s first goal of the season.
Yet it didn’t turn the tide, and only Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul prevented FC Dallas from blowing the game open, making several terrific saves.
Macoumba Kandji drew a penalty kick in the 65th minute but Hoops keeper Dario Sala stopped Angel’s attempt from the spot. “Bouna Time!” remained in full effect until RBNY midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic drew another penalty call in stoppage time. Angel made no mistake with his second chance from the spot, burying it into the upper corner for a 2-1 Red Bull win.
In the old days, this would’ve been exactly the kind of game the team would have lost, probably by two or three goals, so it was encouraging that they scraped out the three points, but the performance was shaky at best.
And at worst? We called up Tom for his reaction. Here are the choice bits, which we absorbed while holding the phone at arm’s length:
“It was just a dreadful soccer game.”
“Cunningham missed two absolute sitters in, like, the first two minutes. It was unbelievable.”
“The Red Bulls would just get the ball at the back and bang it up the field. There was no play in the midfield at all. Nothing.”
“That guy [Roy] Miller, the outside back on the left—I don’t know what he thinks he is. He thinks he can dribble. Three or four times he gave the ball away badly; he was lucky the turnovers didn’t lead to goals.”
“Yes, Bouna was incredible—and so was the post, and the crossbar.”
“[Joel] Lindpere was invisible in the midfield until the second half, and then he kind of came around.”
“I was not impressed with Salou Ibrahim up front. That guy just did nothing. I was looking for John Wolyniec to come in there, for crying out loud.”
Well, okay. But how bout the stadium?
“Wow. Very nice.”
So there you have it. Great new stadium, but it may take more than that for this team to shed its old skin—and it will definitely take more to erase the bad memories from the minds of its longtime fans.