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History of New York Red Bulls friendlies: Part Two

From 2002 to 2007 the MetroStars/Red Bulls played a lot of friendlies from opponents raging from the Chinese National team to Barcelona, and the Long Island Rough Riders when they played in the PDL. Read about it here.

Nick Laham/Getty Images

On July 22nd and 26th the New York Red Bulls will play two international friendlies against Chelsea and SC Benfia. Even amid the controversy for the Chelsea match, this continues a tradition dating back to 1996 where the MetroStars/Red Bulls would play multiple mid-season friendlies a year.

Once a Metro is looking back at every mid-season friendly this franchise has played in. Part one, written by Lester Townsend, can be found here.

From 2002 to 2007 a lot of changes were made in the organization. The number of friendlies from 2003 to 2005 was reduced as the MetroStars were about to go through one of the most drastic re-brandings in MLS history. Red Bull GmbH purchased the team in 2006 and changed the name of the original franchise to the name the team carries today. With the injection of cash it brought two of the most high profile friendlies to hit Giants Stadium. But before we get there, let's start in 2002 where we left off.


2002 was a banner year for friendlies. So much so that the club played six throughout the MLS season.

Taking advantage of playing your most-hated rival, DC United, on the road, the MetroStars scheduled a friendly against Italian giants AC Milan two days before at Giants Stadium. It was part of a doubleheader where the United States Men's National Team played Jamaica before the main event (the US won 5-0). Milan finished fourth in Serie A that year, which Wikipedia described as "a season to forget."

In front of 30,659 fans the MetroStars drew 1-1 in a game where both teams shared possession 50-50, and each had 13 shots on goal. Metro legend Tab Ramos scored, after a young Tim Howard gifted Milan striker Jose Mari a goal in the 24th minute. For the match, the Metros called up three players to ensure they had a full roster. Predictably the team lost to D.C. United, 4-2, two days later.

In an actual 21-day break in the schedule, the Metros then played two friendlies against A-League team the Hampton Roads Mariners in Virginia Beach and PDL squad the Cape Cod Crusaders in Albany.

The MetroStars defeated Hampton Roads 3-0 in a Friday night match in Virginia Beach. (Writers note: That sounds fun. We should do that again.) Andy Williams, Mamadou Diallo, and Tab Ramos scored for the Metros according to MetroFanatic. This would not be the only time the Metros played Hampton Roads this season, as the team would beat the A-League outfit 1-0 in US Open Cup play.

We would take the same scoreline up to Albany -- sorry a suburb of Albany -- where we beat the Crusaders 3-0. Playing on the "campus of Christian Brothers Academy Stadium in the Albany suburb of Colonie," Williams, and Diallo (2) would score for the Metros. The two goals in these two friendlies would match Williams' league output for 2002, while Diallo would score 11 goals in 17 games for the Metros that season. Neither player was on the team next year.

After the long layoff, the Metros managed to fit in Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors on May 19 between two league games against Los Angeles and Chicago. Like those league games, the Metros won this match 3-2 at Giants Stadium.

Rodrigo Faria scored two goals, including the winner via penalty kick in the 71st minute, and the scoreline was boosted with a goal from Jeff Moore. The team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the friendly.

Two more friendlies would be on the docket in August, taking advantage of a 10 day break between games. Dubbed "meaningless" by MetroFantic, the team would lose 1-0 to the Atlanta Silverbacks at DeKalb Memorial Stadium on August 9.

The subsequent friendly at Giants Stadium against CD Guadalajara would not go as well. Mike Petke and Rodrigo Faria were red carded in the first half, leaving a nine-men squad to tackle the Mexican giants. A "pro-Chivas" crowd of 12,711 showed up for the match, which was marked by its physicality and confrontations. Petke was ejected in the 42nd minute for a slide tackle from behind, and Faria managed to bump into the referee voicing his disapproval, which led to his dismissal. At the time the Metros were only down 1-0, but two minutes that lead doubled. Somehow, before halftime the Metros managed to score one back from Byron Alvarez, despite being down 2 men. With opportunities to tie the match in the second-half after the 59th minute, the Metros ended up falling 3-1.

A busy friendly schedule certainly did not help the MetroStars as they finished the year 11-15-2 and did not qualify for the postseason for the second time in team history.


2003 brought a drastic decrease in friendlies, with only two being played. It also brought the first final in team history, as the MetroStars fell 1-0 to the Chicago Fire in US Open Cup play.

The Metros traveled to Rochester for a friendly on August 19, 2003, their fourth friendly with Rochester. Due to a crowded schedule the team skipped the 2002 edition of the semi-regular friendly. MetroFanatic did not pull any punches, describing this friendly as "pointless," as many of the team's regular players did not feature. The Metros lost 3-1 with a young Mike Magee scoring for the Metros.

The next month the Metros would play the Chinese National Team at Giants Stadium in front of 7,611. It was the first time that the Chinese NT had played on US Soil since 1977, when they played the Cosmos at the same venue. China had qualified for the 2002 World Cup and were coached by former MetroStars manager Bora Milutinovic.

Despite experimenting with a 3-man backline from Bob Bradley, the Metros won the match 2-1 with goals from young players Mike Magee and Mike Nugent. It would be Nugent's only goal with the MetroStars.


Three friendlies featured on the 2004 docket.

First, the MetroStars hosted Portuguese club Boavista at Williams Field in Elizabeth, NJ. It was part of the 25th annual Portuguese Day Festival according to Michael Lewis at Big Apple Soccer. Frechaut, a member of the Portuguese National Team, played for Boavista at the time. He featured in the squad that played in the 2004 Summer Olympics, but not the 2004 European Championship team.

Current NYRB II coach John Wolyniec scored two second-half goals, as the Metros debuted a "red and black" uniform. Galvan Rey, scored the Metros' first goal as the team won 3-1. After the 2004 season Boavista went through a long-decline and eventually ended up in the 3rd tier of Portuguese football. A court just reinstated them in the first division of Portuguese football. They are the last, and only second team to breakup the dominance of the big-three in Portugal, winning a title in 2001.

Later that season, and for the first time since 2004 the Metros travelled down Long Island to play the Rough Riders in front of 3,404 fans at the Mitchell Athletic Complex. 2004 friendly heroes John Wolyniec and Galvan Rey scored for the Metros, who defeated the Rough Riders 2-1. According to Dylan Butler of Big Apple Soccer, the team played all of its regular starters except Jonny Walker, Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara and Eddie Pope.

The former National Soccer Hall of Fame via Wikipedia

The last friendly for 2004 was against the Chicago Fire on October 11, 2004 at the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Both teams played reserve teams and played at a "leisurely pace" according to MetroFanatic. Pablo Brenes and Fabian Taylor scored for the Metros. Eric Wynalda played for the Fire, in a game honoring his election to the Soccer Hall of Fame.


In the last season known as the MetroStars, the team only played one mid-season friendly. Traveling up to Frontier Field in Rochester, the Metros took on the Raging Rhinos for the last Metro friendly ever.

Only 7,950 fans watched the Rhinos and MetroStars feature in a 1-1 one draw. In a recurring theme, mostly backup players featured in the match, giving them experience for coach Bob Bradley. Danilo Da Silva scored the Metro's only goal, set up by Mike Magee.

This would be Bradley's final year in charge of the MetroStars, ending one era of the franchise, on the precipice of the biggest change of its young life.


Two massive friendlies awaited in 2006.

After Red Bull GmbH (controversially) re-branded the franchise to the New York Red Bulls, the team faced off against Bayern Munich and Barcelona in one season. That year Barcelona won the 2006 Champions League, and Bayern Munich won the 2006 Bundesliga.

Bayern Munich came to Giants Stadium after winning the Deutscher Meister missing 10 of their regular players due to the 2006 World Cup according to the AP. Even though they missed key players, scorers Claudio Pizarro and Roy Makaay featured for Bayern Munich. The Red Bulls won 4-2, in front of 5,173 fans, making them 2-0 against the German giants.

via Getty Images

All four of the Red Bulls' goals came in the second half. Jean-Philippe Peguero (x2) Edson Buddle and Amado Guevara scored for the Red Bulls, and Claudio Pizarro scored twice for Bayern Munich. As for the missing players, Germany would go to finish 3rd in the World Cup on home soil, a massive success for a certain national team coach.

While Bayern came to Giants Stadium in their post-season tour, the best club team in the world came later that in year a pre-season tour. Barcelona won La Liga and the Champions League in 2005-06 and featured stars such as Samuel E'to, Xavi, Henrik Larsson, Carles Puyol, and a 19 year old Lionel Messi.

They came to Giants Stadium and dismantled the Red Bulls 4-1, in a match described by OaM author Lester Townsend as, "A complete and utter deconstruction by the visitors in front of a crowd supporting the wrong team."

Ronaldinho scored 2 goals from Barcelona, while Lionel Messi scored and assisted a Javier Saviola goal to complete the rout.

The friendly registered a sell-out crowd of 79,002, and was the final stop on Barcelona's preseason tour. The club would take home only the Supercopa Espana as a trophy in 06-07, along with the Red Bulls dignity. The match was 3 people short of the all time soccer attendance record at Giants Stadium according to MetroFanatic.

via USA Today

Speaking on the match Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said:

"I think the emotion was great and everyone enjoyed the game. I think the Red Bulls played a good game. They didn't come here just to defend us — they came to participate and it turned out to be a good game for the spectators."

I don't think many Red Bulls fans enjoyed the game Frank.


After two giant friendlies in 2006, the Red Bulls kept it low-key in 2007.

The only friendly that year was billed a "scrimmage" against the Long Island Rough Riders, which the Red Bulls won 6-1. At this point the Rough Riders played in the amateur Premier Development League, and future Red Bull Mike Grella was on the roster. Juan Pablo Angel, Dave van den Bergh, Francis Doe, John Wolyniec (x2), and Joe Vide scored in the scrimmage.

2002-2007 Summed Up

This era of MetroStars/Red Bulls friendlies is categories as a transition period from the "wild-west" days of early MLS friendlies, to the corporate standardized mid-season friendlies against European powerhouses with depleted rosters. I doubt an MLS team will ever play 6 friendlies in the same season again, nor will they secure both clubs as high-profile as Barcelona and Bayern Munich outside of a predetermined "tournament."

Up next Jason Iapicco will look at the "modern era," of Red Bulls mid-season friendlies. We won something called the Emirates Cup during this time. Also I bet he mentions Thierry Henry. Remember that guy? Probably not. We should catch up with him.