Dear Ali Curtis, Sporting Director of the New York Red Bulls:
I’m writing to you this way instead of more directly because I think you blocked me on Twitter for telling you that you look like the 2nd place winner of a Steve Urkel lookalike contest. Those were harsh words, I know. Leading up to the 2016 New York Red Bulls season, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for all the terrible things I said about you last year.
Looking back, the fans couldn’t really be blamed for hating your ever-loving guts. We had just finished our second season with Mike Petke, the only coach up to that time who had ever won any hardware for the team, and he had finished the 2014 season only one goal from reaching the MLS Cup Final. When he got fired, all the fans could think was "Here we go again." It looked, felt, and smelled like the time that Marc de Grandpre idiotically fired Bruce Arena who then went on to win tons of trophies with the LA Galaxy. I even wore a "Ali Curtis Must Go" t-shirt to that disastrous Town Hall meeting where all the fans treated you like a Narc at a biker rally.
But how did you respond? You gave us the best season in team history. Not only did we win our second Supporters Shield in three years, but we did it with style. I’ve never seen the Red Bulls look better on the field. You put together a top-notch squad with a lot of unlikely players.
Let’s take a quick look at what you did with this team:
- You plucked Mike Grella from his job working as a Macklemore impersonator at the "Legends in Concert" show in Vegas and turned him into a very dependable fan favorite player. According to the MLS Players Union, he was also paid entirely in Amazon gift cards last season, which makes it even more amazing.
- You used MLS front office wizardry to get us to the top of the allocation order, so RBNY could steal Sacha Kljestan from the Galaxy’s clutches. Not only has Kljestan revolutionized our midfield, he also managed to really raise the quality of the team's facial hair.
- You tricked New York City FC by loaning them Ryan Meara for one season in return for Sal Zizzo’s rights forever. Zizzo turned out to be a key player for the Red Bulls when the injury bug struck and Ryan Meara worked as a double agent by bobbling the ball at a key moment for NYC FC and costing them three points in the standings. It’s obvious Meara was part of the conspiracy since when a NYC FC fan reportedly yelled at him to "Go back to Jersey", he is said to have responded with "NY is Red".
- Under your leadership, including the selection of Jesse Marsch as the new head coach, RBNY suddenly had new stars appear out of nowhere. Damien Perrinelle was an afterthought for the 2014 Red Bulls and in 2015 he was the rock of their central defense. Reserve players like Tyler Adams and Sean Davis crushed Premier League Champions Chelsea in an exhibition game and then Chelsea turned around and bought academy product Matt Miazga’s contract for millions of dollars in a vain attempt to become as good as the Red Bulls.
- Connor Lade went from being carded at the movies to getting engaged and buying a house like a grown-up because he became our most reliable utility player. As fans, we all got Lade.
- After we tried and failed with John Rooney and Digao, you actually managed to successfully use a famous world soccer player’s brother to get a contract with an international star. Bradley Wright-Phillips’ success with RBNY convinced his brother Shaun Wright-Phillips to sign with us, so soccer writers could finally write really lame article titles like "The Wright Brothers Taking Flight".
I stand before you now with my ridiculous-looking promotional giveaway Red Bulls trucker hat in hand and apologize for telling you that you were an arrogant egghead afraid to spend money on the team. I’m looking back at 2015 in amazement and looking forward to this weekend’s opening day with something that most Red Bulls fans have never felt before: Optimism. I’m like the Grinch whose heart has grown three sizes bigger after eating green eggs and ham (or something. I’m not much of a reader). What you have done is incredible and you deserve some acknowledgement for that.
At least until next week, when I start hating your guts again.