January 7th, 2015 is a day that will forever be etched in New York Red Bulls history. It's the day that new Sporting Director Ali Curtis fired head coach Mike Petke. Petke had led the team to a Supporter's Shield (the team's first ever domestic trophy) in 2013, and then followed it up by being 1 goal away from the MLS Cup final in 2014. It was the two best years in franchise history. Ali Curtis, who had only been with the team for weeks at that point, fired Mike Petke, and in the same day, announced that Jesse Marsch would take over at the team's coach.
The move has not sat well with most, if not all, fans of the team, this one included. It made no sense to fire a successful coach, especially one who was extremely familiar with the league. Out of the turmoil of the last week and a half though, a vocal group of fans popped up, demanding that Ali Curtis be fired and that the owner of the team, Red Bull GmbH, sell the team. They have rallied around a very simple twitter trend: #RedBullOut.
The group had taken the step of paying for a billboard near the Lincoln Tunnel ahead of the Season Ticket Holder Town Hall this past Friday (see the picture at the top of this article), and was very vocal during the town hall meeting. They have been outspoken on social media as well, making sure their voice is heard. In my opinion though, they need to take a step back.
Before I give my full opinion on #RedBullOut, I would like to state a few things. First, I do not understand the move to fire Petke, and still am a little upset about it. Second, if Red Bull GmbH were to announce today that they are going to sell the club, I would not be upset by it. That being said, I do not support #RedBullOut.
While the decision to fire Petke was a bad move, at least in terms of public relations (we don't know how Jesse Marsch will do), it's not enough to call for Red Bull to sell the team. Red Bull, since buying the team in 2006, has done more for the team than any other owner before it.
Red Bull Arena, the gold-standard soccer-specific stadium in the country, wouldn't be soccer specific without Red Bull. The original design for the stadium, from previous owner AEG, called for one end of the stadium to have a stage, and not permanent seating, ala stadiums for the Columbus Crew SC and Houston Dynamo. The roof wouldn't be what it is, and the stadium's natural feature of keeping noise in, making it one of the loudest stadiums in MLS, wouldn't exist.
If it wasn't for Red Bull, would the team have ever have players like Claudio Reyna, Juan Pablo Angel, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and Juninho? Maybe not all of them worked out for the Red Bulls, but it takes ambition and cash to invest in these players, both signs of a team that wants to succeed.
The team also has a brand new training facility in Hanover, New Jersey, which is due to be upgraded after less than 5 years of being open. This is a much better situation than training at Kean University, St. Benedct's Prep, Giants Stadium, and Montclair University.
The team is also on the verge of having it's very own USL Pro team to replace it's "Reserve" team that barely got playing time in MLS' "Reserve" league. For those wondering why I had reserve in quotes, it's because the whole reserve league was a joke. The Red Bull academy is among the best regarded in the country and all the academy teams are ranked within the top 5 for their respective divisions. The academy gave us Juan Agudelo who has moved on. They also gave us four current (albeit underused) Homegrown Players in Connor Lade, Santiago Castano, Matt Miazga, and Sean Davis.
Look, I'm not telling anyone that they can't be upset. I'm not here defending the team as I don't agree with the Petke move. However, the calls for the team to sell after this one incident seem a little overzealous to me. The Red Bull organization, for their faults, have been a net positive to this team. They moved us from the swamp of East Rutherford to someplace much more accessible. They invested in the team by building training facilities, building up an academy system to be proud of, and investing in world class players. Calling for them to sell the team over firing Mike Petke is too much. It's time for people to take a step back, take a deep breath, and give things a chance. At least the Red Bulls aren't in a state like the New York Jets or New York Knicks.