After a largely forgettable season in the MLS, Red Bull New York bade farewell to their traditional home with a convincing victory in their last match of the year last month, and now they're looking ahead to 2010 with renewed hope and a new home.
The Red Bulls currently prop up the Eastern Standings after only five wins this term, meaning no involvement in the play-off picture. Nineteen defeats tell their own story, but the last match to be played at Giants Stadium, home to the team and their forerunners - the MetroStars - for 14 years, was a thumping 5–0 defeat of Toronto FC.
Juan Pablo Ángel (pictured above), once an English Premier League star at Aston Villa, bagged two of the goals in the Red Bulls’ impressive victory, but now the former Colombian international has turned his focus to next year, and particularly the club’s brand-new stadium, the Red Bull Arena. Ángel visited the 25,000-seat venue last week to see the finishing touches being applied to the Kentucky Bluegrass pitch, the final turf of which was just being laid. The plans for the new site have been a 12-year dream since the early days of the Red Bull revolution of the New York side, and Ángel admits that he won’t be sorry to say goodbye to Giants Stadium.
'We want those people in their seats and rooting for the Red Bulls.' – Erik Stover
“For me personally, I never felt at home,” said Ángel of the old stadium. “That’s why I’m so excited about this. This is home – it’s like you’re walking into your second house.”
One special feature of the new site is that the members’ lounge is out of sight of the pitch, meaning that even the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ (as Irish former Manchester United star Roy Keane once described them) will have to support their team in the traditional way.
“We want those people in their seats and rooting for the Red Bulls,” said the club’s MD Erik Stover. “The seats are going in now,” he added.
The Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, NJ, will be ready for action in February, with the first match of the season against Chicago Fire on March 27. By then, the Red Bulls’ caretaker manager Richie Williams, who replaced Juan Carlos Osorio in August, might be in the job on a permanent basis, and the team will be able to focus on ushering in a new era of success in their new home.
“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” Stover said of Williams, in his second interim period in charge of the side – the first was after Mo Johnston left the Red Bulls back in 2006. The diminutive former defender has also received the backing of the playing staff, including veteran defender Mike Petke, who has been singing the 39-year-old's praises.
“I can’t say enough about Richie,” Petke said. “He’s won the respect of players… I wish him all the luck, and I would love to play for him next year.”