The New York Red Bulls currently sit at #3 in the Eastern Conference with a 8-6-5 (29 pts) record on the year, and is almost guaranteed a playoff spot for the 6th straight year. So why then are some Red Bull fans comparing the team to New York City FC?
NYC FC currently sit in 7th in the East at 6-9-6 (24 pts) with 2 more games played than the Red Bulls. They are a brand new team, not taking the field for an official match before March. So again, why are they the measuring stick?
Yes, they brought in names like Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, David Villa, but so what? They (Villa really) haven't delivered the on field results, yet fans still make it seem like NYC FC are the better team. The Red Bulls have beaten the new team twice in 2015 by a combined 5-2 score. So again, why are they the measuring stick?
Fans (again, some) are looking at the Red Bulls to make a move in the transfer window, and this is the where the general sentiment is coming from. They look at the (relative) free spending team across the Hudson and say "where's ours?" Here's the thing, the strategy used by NYC FC so far is not a tool for success in this market, and the Red Bulls are the case study.
For years the Red Bulls have brought in big soccer names; Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Tim Cahill, and Rafa Marquez, to name a few. Has the fan base grown because of these acquisitions? No. Going out and getting big names does not equate to a larger fan base, or more importantly, winning in MLS (as again shown by the Red Bulls).
You can't just get a big name for the sake of it, it has to fit with the team philosophy (e.g. Clint Dempsey, Robbie Keane). Marquez didn't work because he didn't fit Backe's system. Cahill's last season didn't work because he didn't fit anywhere in the 4-2-3-1. Can you imagine a midfield of Lampard, Villa, Pirlo, and Diskerud doing anything truly special?
NYC FC is in a different place than the Red Bulls. NYC is trying to build their team up to have a hope of keeping a ticket holder base in a "what have you done for me lately" sports market. Names are good for the initial push, so they can afford to sign big names because it helps draw a crowd, but to keep the crowd, the team will have to win, and sooner rather than later. The biggest crowds the Red Bulls have seen at Red Bull Arena have come in the last few years when the team won the 2013 Supporter's Shield and made a push to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
So far, Curtis and Marsch have shown they are serious about winning in all competitions, and that's what (some) of this fan base has been asking for. Yes, the Red Bulls have only signed Shaun Wright-Phillips, but in MLS, you don't need big names to win, and you can argue the Red Bulls currently have a good shot at a MLS Cup run if they can find a consistent form. So please, calm down, wait to see how things work out, and remember who the Kings of New York are.
DISCLAIMER: This opinion piece represents the opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of any other contributor to Once a Metro or the site at large.