Red Bulls 2, Earthquakes 0: A Supporter’s View

Red_bulls_logoSan_jose_earthquakes

Is a win still a win if nobody is there to see it? The answer is yes.

Okay, so saying there was nobody at Giants Stadium on Sunday is a bit much, but the small crowd in attendance to see the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win against San Jose was still a bit disconcerting. There were die-hard fans in the crowd who did get to see John Wolyniec and Jozy Altidore combine for a pair of crucial plays, but plenty of fans stayed home either because of the weather or Sunday responsibilities.

San Jose is probably glad there weren’t that many witnesses to the Earthquakes latest lackluster performance. A week after a promising win against Colorado, the Earthquakes reverted to looking like an expansion team as their offense sputtered and defense broke down.

SBI Correspondents Andrew Keh and Kevin Matthiessen watched the match and give us their takes on the 2-1 Red Bulls victory.

Red Bulls win an ugly one in front of a paltry crowd

By ANDREW KEH

If a soccer team wins a game in the swamplands, and no one is there to see it, does it still count toward league standings?

All philosophical joking aside—and we joke, because otherwise we’d cry—the pathetic crowd that witnessed the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win over San Jose at Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon, generously listed at 9,053 people, seems to have reignited the old and unceasing discussion among fans regarding the franchise’s marketing efforts, or lack thereof, and the team’s weak drawing power in the New York market.

In truth, the endless rows of empty seats at the stadium, which had the eeriness of a ghost town, were a strange and sorry sight. Add in the fact that the MSG network cut off their live television coverage of the game midway through the second half to show hockey interviews, and one could indeed argue that very few people actually saw the game.

I hate to complain about matters of atmosphere and playing conditions, because the reality is that nothing will change until 2009, when Red Bull Park is slated to open in Harrison, NJ. So until now, I have refrained from discussing such issues—even though they are constantly on the minds of Red Bull supporters—and I won’t do so again in the future.

Bear with me, then, while I quickly get this off my chest, and forgive me if I am just stating the obvious: Giants Stadium is a dreadful venue for Major League Soccer matches. The sticky turf eliminates any hope for fluid dribbling or passing, and it’s been known to cause some ridiculous, cartoon bounces on balls played in the air. The stadium noises that thunder out of the PA system, meanwhile, create cringe-inducing echoes off the hard plastic of the empty seats. All of that said, I have no doubt that Red Bull Park, if completed to the promised specifics, will be the premier soccer stadium in the United States, and I count myself among the large majority of New York soccer aficionados that simply cannot wait for it to open.

Nobody likes a complainer, though, especially after a solid victory.

The Red Bulls’ defensive organization on Sunday was very impressive, as it has been all season, and with two shutouts under their belt, the squad now has now outscored opponents 5-1 in three home games. Chris Leitch and Kevin Goldthwaite both took a beating in the match, with the latter having to leave the game with a back injury, but I think the knocks and bruises are a testament to their tenacity around the ball, which deserves praise.

Also deserving of praise was Claudio Reyna, who set the tone and tempo of the match from his position in midfield. I have always felt that criticisms of Reyna since his arrival in New York have been a bit harsh. I know he won’t silence many of those critics unless he puts some numbers up on the score sheet, but Reyna has never been one to unleash the killer pass into the box or score many goals—although he almost notched his first goal on Sunday in the 38th minute, initiating a sweet one-two with John Wolyniec at the top of the box, only to have his shot cleared off the line by Nick Garcia. He is a pivot player who sees all the angles and openings on the field and is skilled enough to exploit them, and on Sunday, he did all of those things to a great effect.

And finally, what else is there to say about Jozy Altidore? It’s actually becoming redundant singing his praises each week. But against San Jose, after a quiet first half, he showed what happens when he asserts his ridiculous physical tools. A stutter step and quick burst of speed earned the Red Bulls a much needed penalty kick, and a nice combination with Wolyniec and clever shot off the right post sealed the deal, 2-0.

Knowing this might be Altidore’s last season in MLS, sad as it is, does tend make the trips to the swamp a worthwhile experience.

Earthquakes have fans singing expansion Blues

By KEVIN MATHIESSEN

I sure got them expansion team blues again. Like another love lost so was the game on Sunday vs. the New York Red Bulls. For 79 minutes it looked like the Earthquakes would eke out at least a draw only Lady Luck went home with another man.

If only Robert Johnson were still alive and was a ‘Quakes fan. Surely he’d have a song titled "The Expansion Team Blues".  Or "(Got Them Old) Expansion Team Blues Again". I’d imagine it would go something like:

Got them expansion team blues,
Can’t get a good call.
And though we’re in the game all day
We was always a gonna fall.

Yeah Altidore’s outside the box
Ref called a PK anyway
Then a garbage time goal
And to our knee’s now gonna pray.

Got the expansion team blues now honey, ooh hoo
Lady Luck ain’t gone’ call.

There is something about an expansion team that makes it hard to get results. And it makes me want to sing the blues. Just like figuring out how women work, expansion teams will always seem to find it hard to figure out ways to win. Could it be a lack of confidence? Could it be that other teams will put in that extra effort so as not get embarrassed by an expansion team? Could it be that refs are harsher on expansion teams? I don’t really know.

Anyhow, I’ll take a look at the positives that the San Jose side showed on the day. Kei Kamara played well and showed why he makes a good target forward. He did a fine job holding the ball and distributing with his back to goal.

As a team, the Earthquakes shuffled the ball around with crisp passing and generally had good touches despite playing on that ugly, plastic American football pitch. (Can we even call that a "pitch"?) Also, they showed some toughness and didn’t pick up any injuries as far as I know.

Well, just like a blues singer will find more ladies to court, so will the Earthquakes have games to try to win. And finally they will start playing in their true home. Maybe the real turf of Buck Shaw Stadium is what they need to get their mojo flowin’. Till then it’s time for the Quakes to make their true journey drivin’ on home with them "Terraplane Blues". "Ooh hoo."

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27 Responses to Red Bulls 2, Earthquakes 0: A Supporter’s View

  1. Matt says:

    The weather is a poor excuse for the miserable attendance. No rain to speak of and it wasn’t especially cold. The only conclusion I can reach is that people are just massively turned off by watching soccer played in Giants Stadium. You could hardly call it soccer. That pitch is a disgrace and the ball just bounces around like crazy, taking almost all the skill out of the game. Through balls roll out harmlessly over the goal line and for most of the match it’s nothing but head tennis in midfield and people struggling to control the ball. Add in the narrow pitch and you have a recipe for really awful crap. I’m amazed that players like Angel, Altidore and Reyna even agree to play on that monstrosity. It’s a career-ending injury waiting to happen.

  2. bgnewf says:

    Poor Poor New York Energy Drinks. My heart bleeds…

    I think your problems in the New York market go a lot deeper than the stadium. when your broadcaster pulls a “Heidi” and dumps your broadcast for interviews of a sport that is also not very popular in the US you definitely have problems that go a lot deeper than playing in a stadium so poor for the game.

    Last week in Toronto we had a transit strike and we still had a full house and I guarantee we will have another one tomorrow night. Come on you reds!

  3. Matty C says:

    I normally go to all the games that I can but the Rangers played the Pens on Sunday in a crucial game two. That being said, I wish I went to Giants Stadium…

  4. Matt says:

    bgnewf, there is no point in ridiculing those of us RBNY fans who post on here – we are the ones actually turning out for the games.

    I keep telling myself that it will get better after we move to Harrison. It has to, right?!?

  5. joe k says:

    altidore may have been out of the box, but he was all alone up there — it should have been a card.

    the ref also didn’t play the advantage for the red bulls when they had an odd-man advantage attacking at the toronto goal.

    let’s face it — that ref wasn’t the worst in the mls (that’s the real sad part), but he wasn’t good. at least his shitty calls went both ways.

  6. joe k says:

    and to the tfc fans — the metrostars had just as many fans in attendance in their first two years of existence in 96 and 97 as toronto has today. we’ll see how things go when toronto doesn’t win anything for 10 years.

    guevara will guide you to the playoffs and maybe even a first round win, but there is no way toronto wins the championship with that team right now.

  7. Matt says:

    joe k – he may not have been the worst ref in MLS, but he certainly was the shortest!

  8. JSquaredNY says:

    I’m really psyched for the next NY Franchise. It’s a shame it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen until 2012.

  9. bgnewf says:

    Matt – I was not ridiculing the fans, but I was criticizing the team and it’s approach to marketing itself in your market. The hardcore fans I have met from other MLS cities (yes, even Columbus) are great. It’s a shame that you have to put up with what you have to put up with. For your sake I hope Harrison is easily accessible to the urban fan from New York, as it seems that the “suburbs” and the soccer moms are not the kind of places or fans you want to have in order to have a great experience at the matches.

  10. brian says:

    I wonder if some regions just aren’t good MLS markets. I lived in the SJ area during the Yallop/Donovan glory years and attendance was relatively poor. If a good, attacking championship team like that can’t draw then I wonder if the pipe dream of getting them a SSS will help.

    I wonder the same about Metro/Red Bull–is it the quality of the team, years of pent-up fan frustration, or what?

  11. Matt says:

    bgnewf, the stadium in Harrison will be easily accessible. Just a few stops on the PATH train from the city – maybe 10-15 minutes. Concrete is being poured, so it’s not too far off I hope. Until then it is what it is.

  12. inkedAG says:

    When you have a team that hasn’t won anything in its existence, has had managerial neglect, incompetence, and/or turnover for much of its existence, you’ll have no one showing up to games. Couple that with the fact that no matter who is in charge, no matter who is playing, no matter who owns the team and no matter who coaches the team, the same stupid mistakes and decisions are made again and again and again, you’re not going to have people come to games.

    Red Bull Park is not going to make Red Bull Ownership, Juan Carlos Osorio or Jeff Agoos any smarter. Until the right personnel is in place, until the right players are signed to the team and the right decisions are made each and every time, the team, and the few fans it has, will continue to suffer.

    Considering the fact that we still don’t have players signed, a no-brainer (Matt Kassell) was not signed, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. We have a saying at Giants Stadium: Same Old Metro….

  13. Matt says:

    Here is a map of the PATH system in relation to Manhattan. Stadium will be right at the Harrison stop.

    link to panynj.gov

  14. Sean says:

    Red Bulls Marketing sucks I think. They send a few people out to Union Square every now and again. They wear Red Bulls stuff and dribble the ball and hand out a few things. They usually have one to three attractive girls. But, as much as I always talk about soccer to my friends when I see them, it doesn’t change the fact that Giants Stadium HAS turned me off to going to soccer. And, I know it’s turned off a lot of my family and friends who may not attend regularly but get excited and bring some friends to a random game only to come back and bemoan the miserable crowd and how they don’t think it was a great experience for their friends. So, it just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

    I’m going to say it again, I believe that a Manhattan stadium would be incredibly successful. There are enough soccer fans in NYC to fill a twenty-five thousand seat stadium on a regular basis. But, it’s just not going to happen at crappy Giants stadium when it’s a pain to get there – especially for those who have never attempted to make the trip and don’t know how.

    And, also because the atmosphere is crap and people take the subway all the time. The last thing most want to do is make a trip full of transfers and waiting on platforms or for buses to go to a place where the soccer looks awful based on atmosphere alone. Add that to the fact that Red Bull is sort of a controversial drink. I know I don’t like the taste of idea of it… Add that to the fact that the MetroStars began botching the market many years ago… Add that to lack of stability with having any good players… Add that to artificial turf… Add that to a hundred other things and you have recipe for disaster.

    I hate to sound pretentious, but many many people who live in Manhattan and come to New York are from other places. They are people who are interested in bettering themselves career-wise or culturally and tend to be fairly discerning people. You’re not going to win them over (especially with soccer) until you start doing it right and make it the unique experience it is.

    In the city, soccer would be a simply marvelous event. Two hours and done. Great for a fast-paced New Yorker’s lifestyle! Plus you have countless immigrants and tourists. A soccer stadium would be a smash success. It’s not simply the mentality of build one and they will come. Of course the club has some responsibility. But, the city could help out, too, if Bloomberg just got enough sense.

  15. Matt says:

    Sean, if the Jets couldn’t get a stadium built in Manhattan, the Red Bulls sure as hell aren’t going to. The only place to stick a stadium in the city is out in Queens (next to Shea) or in Brooklyn, and how exactly is that any easier for people to get to than Harrison?

  16. Dick Mac says:

    It was a perfect day for soccer at Giants Stadium (well, except for the stadium, of course). No oppressive sunshine, warm enough to be comfortable, no rain. Perfect. I am happy my daughter and I were there to see the match.

    I am not pathetic, Mr. Keh. The crowd was not pathetic. Anybody who was at the match knows that the crowd was anything but pathetic. The crowd was animated and charged.

    It may have been a poorly attended match, but the crowd was not pathetic. You show a commanding lack of respect for those of us in attendance, and and a dismal command of the English language when you refer to us as pathetic.

    Get a thesaurus, you pathetic excuse for a writer!

  17. Dominghosa says:

    Dick, I’m pretty sure Andrew Keh was also at the match. And describing his writing with the same word you thought was too simplistic is ironic.

  18. Tony in Quakeland says:

    “I wonder if some regions just aren’t good MLS markets. I lived in the SJ area during the Yallop/Donovan glory years and attendance was relatively poor. If a good, attacking championship team like that can’t draw then I wonder if the pipe dream of getting them a SSS will help.”

    This statement is misleading.

    If you adjust attendance averages for the league at the time by taking out the attendance boost given through promotional double headers and similar events, Earthquakes attendance was in the upper half of the league.

    In addition, we had ownership that spent NO money on promotion or advertising, whose community outreach was nonexistent. Plus we had annual threats to move or close the franchise. Considering everything stacked against us, we did pretty well.

    But the fact of the matter is that what killed the franchise was the stadium deal. The rent to SJ State was high and the team got nothing from parking and concessions. Owning our own stadium back then would have put the team near the break even point.

    Lew Wolff is no idiot. He knows that getting a stadium done puts the team on a firm financial footing and sets the stage for a profitable existence.

  19. chris says:

    I’ll admit I refuse to waste my time going to Giants stadium to watch ping pong soccer in a dead atmosphere anymore. I haven’t gone for years and I’m clearly one of the people who contribute to the attendance woes. Here’s the good news. As soon as the team moves to the new park I am buying season tickets as are 4 other friends who currently don’t go anymore. My guess is there are many people like me out there waiting on the new stadium before they come back. I still watch the games on tv but I just can’t bring myself to go to the stadium for what I know will be a crap time. I think the stadium will give this franchise a second wind. I wouldnt get too depressed. It will probably get ugly this last year at Giants stadium but I think the future is much brighter. The location of the new stadium couldnt be any better not to mention the quality of it.

  20. Coach says:

    News flash: the Cosmos filled that joint with a field that was 10 times worse and public transportation that sucked just as much back then, so don’t blame the location.

    Most people, and especially New Yorkers, want to see the best, or at least the best within reason. And until/unless MLS takes off the single-entity shackles, we won’t see it in our local team, and crowds will be sparse.

    But until then, how lame are all these excuses? If you’re interested in the team, you’ll go, no matter the weather, the venue, blah blah blah.

    New stadium or not, it’s going to take a lot of time and work to instill that kind of loyalty in supporters, if it ever happens. As opposed to the Cosmos days, there are plenty of better alternatives for soccer fans via cable, Internet, etc.

  21. Miguel says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Coach! The Cosmos, as well as the MetroStars for their first few seasons, played on a field that might as well have been asphalt. The people who complain about ping-pong soccer now apparently never saw a Cosmos game or and early Metro game in person. Also, what I’m very sick of are the weak, weak, weak, excuses about why people won’t go. I couldn’t care less if the team is crap, that the stadium is crap or that not that many people show up. I’m friggin there, with my wife and two kids for every game (although I’m not 100% hardcore, as I did miss the Mother’s Day game last year) and we have a great time. And I wouldn’t care if it was just the four of us in the stadium. We’d make our own atmosphere and still have a good time. Also, I don’t know if the Harrison stadium will solve any attendance problem, but I’m still going to be there and that’s all that matters to me. Weak excuses are of no concern to me.

  22. mike says:

    Coach hit the nail on the head. Giants stadium has always been miserable for soccer but people show if they think the product is worth it regardless. Until MLS loosens the salary cap significantly the majority of soccer fans in the area just arent very interested in a low salary level product. MLS in its current form I think will never be an easy sell here.

  23. Matt says:

    Coach, the thing is that I don’t think anyone is expecting to have crowds of 50-60K as they had in the Cosmos’ days. 20-25K would be great and I think that is achievable under the single entity system if a number of other factors come into play – easy transportation, a good matchday atmosphere, more aggressive marketing, cheaper tickets for students and kids, etc. You put your finger on the fact that people have more options now, which is precisely why you need to find new ways to reach out to them and make it fun to come out to the stadium.

  24. jeff says:

    I think the real stadium will make a significant difference. Granted the soccer will still be 2nd rate but the presentation of the product will be 100 times better. If they concentrate their efforts and make a big push in newark/harrison/kearny alone they will draw well. There are that many soccer fans there already. Is it possible to get a name Portugese or Brazilian DP? I’m sure that would help tremendously in brining in crowds from that area.

  25. DougO says:

    Shame Goldthwaite had to leave the match early. You say he took a beating in the match? Such punishment was surely less than deserved for that scissors tackle he inflicted on Kamara in the first minutes of the game. Goldthwaite should have been ejected long before he took his beating.

  26. mpf says:

    well i dont know why are you guys complaining about ref. first half clear hand ball by sj defender as i remeber maybe 5-6 min,ten horrid tacle with elbo right before the half time in the box..no call..and the worst of them was a call in clear adventage when Jozy was going one on one with joec.

  27. Michael says:

    I firmly believe the stadium will drastically improve attendance. Giants Stadium is not even accessible by public transportation from anywhere in NJ. Not only will we draw more fans from NYC with an easy 20 minute PATH ride from the WTC or 33rd Street but we’ll also be accessible through NJ Transit trains from all over NJ. We also have the not inconsiderable fan base to draw on from the Kearny and Newark areas. One Portuguese player and you probably have 5,000 seats sold for every match easy from people who live within walking distance of the new stadium.

    I fully expect the new stadium to sell out on a regular basis and also increase interest through non-RBNY events like USMNT matches, etc… I don’t like watching RBNY at Giants Stadium (and I’ve been doing it for 12 years) but it’s what we have right now and better is on the way. A new stadium with a real field will go a long ways in helping us attract better players as will the new training facility. MLS doesn’t need to convert basketball and hockey and NFL fans to MLS… they already have a large enough potential base but they blwo it by trying to cater to “American” sports fans who apparently need playoffs, salary caps, etc…