Ah, 2015: what a year. Deflategate refused to quit, the United States government led a crusade of Biblical proportions against the comically crooked FIFA, we saw a Triple Crown winner in horse racing and witnessed the most lucrative pillow fight of all time between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
The Red Bulls started last year in turmoil thanks to the unpopular and unexpected dismissal of Mike Petke, the less unpopular departure of Tim Cahill, and the expected-if-only-we-had-listened departure of Thierry Henry. A winter of increasing discontent brought about the aforementioned tense Town Hall, before the club sprang the biggest - and best - surprise of all: storming to a Supporters' Shield winning-season when many had questioned whether they even had the potential to challenge for a playoff berth.
In general, 2015 started poorly (albeit off the pitch) and turned out great for RBNY. Coincidentally, 2016 has started poorly (albeit on the pitch) and...well, Friday night was great and maybe that sound you heard behind all the cheering in Red Bull Arena was the current season's tide turning for the Red Bulls'.
Against FC Dallas - a team still boasting the joint-highest points total in the league, despite that thumping in New York - it felt a whole lot like RBNY 2015 again. Eerily so, with all of the previously mentioned 2015 stories all reappearing last week: Deflategate had what feels to be its 28th rendition of a court ruing; the FIFA crusade continues; the Kentucky Derby is on the horizon; and Mayweather has hinted at a pillow fight rematch with Pacquiao.
The Red Bulls' filleting of Dallas was reminiscent of 2015 not just because they actually won (something that hasn't happened much to date in 2016) but the way they won, the way they set up, the players in the team and the performance that came with the rout. They even called upon a 2015 set piece play that worked to perfection to kick off the scoring!
After their successful 2015, the Red Bulls only really lost one key contributor: Matt Miazga. His loss has been felt in the opening weeks of 2016, but other than that, Friday night's lineup was all about 2015 - indeed, it was entirely comprised of players who played a regular part in the first team last year.
The fondly constructed attacking quartet of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam started together as usual, and the anchors behind them of Dax McCarty and Felipe took up their usual positions on the field. Gonzalo Veron and Gideon Baah, both due to injuries, weren't in the team. #NoNewFriends
That first goal on the set piece was a thing of beauty. The decoy runs and chaos that ensued completely mesmerized the Dallas defense, which was stranded as the initial ball was floated perfectly to the back stick and nodded across for a tap in. It was one of the many telltale signs that the 2015 verve and vision had made a warmly welcomed reappearance at Red Bull Arena.
After weeks of anonymity and failed dribbles, Sam rediscovered the fact that he his much more adept with his feet than the average human, and the average MLS left back, and went to work. Grella's timing, positioning and dribbling consistently stayed with him through the match, resulting in his perfectly taken goal.
Wright-Phillips, though he didn't score, looked more like the leading front man of the past two years than whatever he'd been mailing in during 2016. He'll be fine, he'll score goals as long as the team plays like they did Friday.
As for Kljestan? As we all know, he's masterful when he's got time, space and opportunities. Also, he's absolutely clinical from three yards with an empty net! It's a trait he's borrowed from BWP.
Behind them the backline hadn't much to do as McCarty and Felipe formed a wall that would bring tears of joy to Donald Trump's eyes, if only those eyes had the capacity for real human emotion. Luis Robles showed why he won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015, earning his clean sheet.
Width was an issue at times as it has been the case for while now, but the team's incisive combo play and quick attacks blanketed that up. It is the nature of this front four to play a little narrow: Grella isn't a natural chalk-on-his-boots winger, Kljestan likes to lightly jog around the center of the pitch between defensive midfielders and center backs, while Sam is often averse to going wider than the 18 yard box, for whatever reason.
That's a problem they had in 2015, and a problem that didn't hold them back too much in 2015, and it was the same story on Friday night. All in all, it was a near perfect performance for them boys in white. They gave their supporters plenty of chances to Twist and Shout, which is all we can really ask.
So maybe the Red Bulls will be alright. They outperformed expectations in 2015 but have failed to match the high hopes of their supporters thus far in the new campaign. Last week was important, a major key if we're speaking in DJ Khaled terms, ahead of two tough road matches against DC United and Orlando City. It may well yet prove the springboard to success this season.
The calendar may read 2016, but Friday night felt much more like 2015. And 2015 was a good year for RBNY. More of that, please.