The invitations dropped into inboxes around 6:30 pm on the evening of January 8. The retweets started shortly thereafter:
See you there! #RBNY pic.twitter.com/bjxU3Ip7wt— Erik Abarca (@ErikAbarca) January 8, 2015
The New York Red Bulls will be convening a town hall meeting with 300 of its season ticket holders on Friday January 16 at 7:30 pm.
Reportedly, every season ticket holder has been invited, to be whittled down to 300 on a first-come, first-served basis. A link for RSVPs will be sent out on January 12, and the quickest to reply will get a seat in the room with RBNY General Manager Marc de Grandpre, Sporting Director Ali Curtis, and Head Coach Jesse "Energy Drink" Marsch.
The executive team has had a difficult week. On Monday January 5, the working year got started as many returned from the New Year's break. Not much was happening in Red Bull land.
Nothing but tumbleweeds rolling through #RBNY today... pic.twitter.com/i8xUuTZYIb— Mark Fishkin (@MarkFishkin) January 5, 2015
And then it all kicked off.
On Tuesday, news leaked that much-admired assistant coach Robin Fraser was leaving the club to be an assistant coach at Toronto FC.
Just before midnight the same day came the suggestion that head coach Mike Petke had been sacked.
On Wednesday, January 7, both those reports were confirmed and a new head coach, Jesse Marsch was introduced. He described his tactical plan - the one Shield-winning, Conference-final-making coach Petke was fired for a perceived inability to execute a "commitment to winning"- as being akin to an "energy drink".
And then one of the most experienced and respected journalists on the Red Bull beat announced the persistent rumors that the club's ownership had indeed checked out and put the team up for sale were true.
On Thursday, Marc de Grandpre had to bat the sale rumor down, while fans learned Ali Curtis's first act as a Sporting Director that wasn't destructive to the work of the past two years was the signing of Ambroise Oyongo.
Problem: most fans were under the impression Oyongo had been signed by the club back in March. Suddenly RBNY had deftly managed to join Toronto FC and NYC FC in MLS's not-entirely-up-front-front-offices club. And since no one who might reasonably be considered to actually be responsible for misleading fans about the nature of Oyongo's contract - Andy Roxburgh, Mike Petke or (at a stretch) Robin Fraser - was around to explain themselves, that's a charge piled onto Curtis and Co. as well.
Meanwhile, that (large) section of the fan base not happy at the 48-hour dismantling of a coaching team that had delivered two seasons of unprecedented success to their club was evolving out of rage to a coordinated response.
A campaign was started to fund rental of a billboard to carry some part of that response. It hit its funding target before the end of the day.
This week was supposed to be about the 2015 MLS schedule and maybe a little cheerleading for current Red Bulls at work on foreign fields while the front office teased fans into excitement about the coming season with the occasional transfer rumor.
Nope. The team's beleaguered execs couldn't even keep the Jozy Altidore rumor alive for more than 24 hours. The sense is that the ticket sales team is spending more time explaining the "no refunds" policy on season tickets than selling. The big buzz around the 2015 home opener is not about new signings or hoping the team comes out for the new season with the drive and commitment it showed at the end of the last. Instead, it is about a billboard on I-280 documenting the current fury for all to drive past on their way to the game. Or the protest, which is increasingly what that match looks likely to be.
Ali, Marc and Jesse, you are right: it's time we had a talk. Whichever of us see you on January 12 look forward to hearing what you have to say; the rest of us look forward to hearing about what you said.
Til then, please try not to burn down the stadium or trade BWP and Dax McCarty for case of ultra-caffeinated beverages.