Red Bulls lose battle, win war

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

A social media driven contest to light up the Empire State building with NY’s favorite soccer teams colors showed us that in the big apple the team with the bigger names gets the attention of the fans. The Red Bulls supporters were outnumbered by their new cross-river rivals, who won the prize: a pale blue Empire State Building honoring NYCFC. The victory was short lived as the fledgling club lost the derby match to the Reds in disappointing fashion.

The Red Bulls arrived an hour late to the stadium — delayed by traffic — and it showed in the first half where the discombobulated Bulls struggled on the small, unruly baseball field turned pitch. They went into the half down 1-0 after failing to answer a quick goal by Thomas McNamara despite several promising crosses from the back line.

In the second half a real sense of purpose showed up for the Bulls, delayed possibly in the same GWB traffic that held up the team itself. Wright Phillips broke a 6 game scoreless streak, off of a beautiful cross from Sacha Klestjan. From here the offense was on auto-pilot scoring 2 more goals and ultimately securing a great derby victory for the Bulls.

"They can have the Empire State building. We will take our three points and be on our way," wryly tweeted team captain Dax McCarty.

The game did highlight two huge areas that could well become problematic for a Red Bulls team under a new regime, especially after a tumultuous off-season.

First — several key crosses from breakout Jamaican defensive star Kemar Lawrence found no offensive player upfield to receive them on what should have been easy tap in goals. Wright Phillips is a great finisher but found himself wrapped up in City defense, without the benefit of another danger man to create space up front, forcing him out towards the wings. The Red Bull offense has floundered this season — scoring 2 goals or less in every previous contest this season — and could use a jolt up front. Mike Grella and Anatole Abang have done a decent job working as attacking mid-fielders but are not the chance creators or the big name that were lost in Thierry Henry’s departure.

Secondly the derby demonstrated how fickle American soccer fans can be. NYCFC made a big splash this year signing Villa and Lampard to the club, and then adding Pirlo fresh off a Champions League final to the roster. This attention might have bought them a pale blue Empire State building but not a winning record. Lampard and Pirlo have yet to play a minute for the team but historically big name additions historically have not been hugely favorable to team standings in the MLS. They do however draw fans.

This is where the balancing act begins for NYRB they need to add a big name player to remain relevant in a market, while maintaining the team dynamic that got Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch his job. New sporting director Ali Curtis promised that ‘Money wouldn’t be a factor,’ in going out and getting top-tier footballers but one has to wonder who is coming, and when they just might arrive, and if by then Mr. Lampard and Mr. Pirlo will have taken over the NY for good…

The opinions stated herein are wholly those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of or