Wednesday Night I sat down and had a conversation with Scott from SBNation's BrotherlyGame to discuss the New York Red Bulls traveling to Chester on Saturday to play the Philly Union. It was perhaps the most difficult conversation to have as I hate all things Philly except their Cheesesteaks and the Roots. We had some laughs and I think it was a very detailed discussion about the matchup as well as other soccer happenings.
Part 1 of the Conversation can be found here
Scott K.: He has a soccer mind and soccer vision. The thing that I respect about him is that he was never the fastest or flashiest player but he always could find a player with the ball. Ryan Giggs was always the better player, better winger, better passer, better shooter, faster, more athletic, etc
Matthew: Exactly, he's not a natural athlete by any definition but he's got the better IQ. While a lot of his fame has been predicated on his good looks, he never disappointed on the field or pulled the fame card in regards to effort
Scott K.: He needs a complement like a Giggs or Landon Donovan, though. That was his problem on Real Madrid.
More after the Jump
Matthew: Anyways, I see Thierry Henry having a similar effect in the Red Bulls locker room. Before his arrival, Dane Richards was the most disappointing member of the roster. He's changed his game since the transfer window and has turned himself into a legitimate threat. Everyone on the Red Bulls has benefitted since most of our players are very young.
Scott K.: I have to agree with that. Dane Richards has become a threat and he used to be a nothing
Matthew: he was a wasted space on the field
Scott K.: He's in the vein of an Obifemi Martins or (before this season) a Theo Walcott
Matthew: the team is a lot different than when you guys first met us this season
Scott K.: So much speed, plenty of talent but never put it together consistently
Same could be said about the Union
Matthew: Could it? I mean there have been some serious pick ups this season for the Red Bulls during the transfer window and the Kandji for Balouchy trade definitely changes the on field dynamic
Matthew: And Bouna has essentially been lights out since the World Cup break
Scott K.: Since they last met:
-Le Toux has staked his claim to be MLS MVP
-Sheanon Williams was signed and has been solid for the Union as the starting right back
Scott K.: -Michael Orzco-Fiscal's move to center defender has somewhat given consistency to the center of defense (well, not really)
-Justin Mapp, acquired mid-season, has become a consistent midfielder for the Union and when on his game provides the Union with a threat not named Le Toux or Mwanga.
-Shea Salinas has come back from injury and is looking just as good as he did in the first half of the season
-Brad Knighton has been better than Chris Seitz
Matthew: I didn't realize that many changes have been made
Le Toux is definitely one of the nice surprises this year for Philly for sure
Scott K.: You also have Coudet but I already touched on him. And Fred has improved plenty.
Matthew: so what’s the biggest matchup for Saturday?
Scott K.: Danny Mwanga versus Tim Ream. Rookie versus rookie. Rookie of the Year candidate versus Rookie of the Year candidate. If Mwanga can create chaos in the Red Bulls back four then Le Toux will be even more spectacular that he typically is. Recently Mwanga has been off form, forcing Le Toux to do most of the damage on his own.
Scott K.: What do you think will be the most important match up?
Matthew: Honestly, this is a manager's battle. The Red Bulls have clinched the playoffs. They don't need to play their starters and it would be wise to give them some rest for the playoffs
Scott K.: There's no emphasis on trying for the Supporter's Shield?
Matthew: On the other hand the next two weeks are massive rivalries and you can't lay down since there is pride on the line. At this point I don't think the Red Bulls could win the supporters shield, RSL has run away with that this season
Scott K.: Like you said, there's pride on the line here. Plus it ain't over 'till it’s over.
Matthew: I know I don't want to lose to Philly or the Revs, two teams not making the playoffs but these two games will be very physical...so do you risk your stars to get a better seeding?
Scott K.: Depends on whether or not you feel that the match up will be better if you do.
Matthew: It's definitely a matter of pride. End the season strong but don't kill yourselves in the process
And be ready to substitute Angel/Henry/Marquez/Lindpere if things get too physical on the field.
Scott K.: Danny Califf style.
Matthew: Exactly, I'm basing this strictly on our meetings with DCU but those games tend to be in that grey area of hard play and fouling
Scott K.: This game should be interesting because the players, at least I believe they will, will take it as seriously as the supporters.
Matthew: Both teams know what is on the line. We don't have a rivalry trophy on the line but you get the feeling that both teams want this win...us to get the points since it seems Columbus is slipping as of late and you guys because a win over NY is a ton of bragging rights
Scott K.: I hope that we never have a rivalry trophy. Way too cliché. Hopefully it'll develop into something of a pseudo-derby and we get our own version of a London or Milan situation.
Matthew: My thoughts exactly. The league is incredibly young and has artificially created a lot of things. From a fan perspective that is. While certain actions (Aleko Escadarian's Red Bull controversy) aren't manufactured, rivalry trophies in a 15 year old league just comes off as incredibly fake.
Scott K.: Rivalry trophies generally come off as phony, though. Look at college/professional football. 99% of the "rivalry" trophies are phony.
Matthew: It’s the rivalries based on location that are the most heated. The fact that it's a train ride from Philly to NJ means you'll have fans constantly traveling.
Scott K.: A couple of years from now we will look back and laugh at how this rivalry was originally manufactured.
Matthew: Yep...the league is also thinking about a second NY team. How many artificial rivals can one team have?
Scott K.: 10. That's a completely arbitrary and made up number.
Matthew: But it's a valid point. The league is desperate for NY media attention that they'll create something that isn't there. Why not focus on selling out RBA consistently?
Scott K.: That's not going to happen. Bad location is going to hurt ticket sales for all eternity.
Matthew: The location is no worse than PPL though. Tons of Mass transit in the area
Scott K.: To Harrison, NJ? I can't take NJ Transit to it.
Matthew: Sure you can...Newark Penn Station and one half mile walk to the stadium or jump on the Path to the stadium.
Scott K.: It's that close to Newark. Hm, I've been misled.
Matthew: Yeah, it was actually one of the big advertising points prior to the season.
The PATH to Red Bull Arena (via RedBullsReader)
Scott K.: That's a sick video.
Matthew: Yeah that was the TV spot for the initial push for season tickets. Unfortunately the season ticket purchases generated were minimal this season (prior to the start) and only picked up once the team started to consistently win and then the two major signings this summer
Scott K.: The main problem for you guys is the fact that there are so many NY sports teams?
Matthew: I think the problem is that when you are competing with the Mets/Yankees in the summer and the Giants in the fall, you take a backseat when the media covers sports. At least prior to the 2010 World Cup. There seems to be a real interest in soccer after which is nice and should benefit all teams.
Scott K.: You have a similar situation in Philly. The Union weren't supposed to draw anyone outside of the Sons of Ben, if you believed the MSM coverage (or lack thereof). Instead the Union come close to filling the stadium almost every home game.
Matthew: That's the benefit of being an expansion team, there is an ability to naturally build a fan base (see Seattle Sounders)...by the time the team plays its first game, people are crazy to see them
Scott K.: That can be nicely attributed to the Union.
Matthew: It's something that the Front Office should be commended for.
Scott K.: Definitely.