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."