The vibe in Red Bulls land is a happy one following the club’s 2-0 win against Columbus on Saturday. Beating the Crew without Jozy Altidore and without injured starters Dane Richards and Hunter Freeman provided a sense of relief for fans who were worried the club was heading into the season unprepared to compete.
In the very first installment of ‘A Supporter’s View’ SBI correspondent Andrew Keh was at Giants Stadium and provides us with his view of Saturday’s performance (Feel free to provide your reaction to Andrew’s piece in the comments section below):
A memorable night and a shutout victory
by Andrew Keh
At around 7pm on Saturday night, as I stood with friends in Giants Stadium’s Lot 18, I ate the type of absurd, grand finale burger that typically appears as you start to pack up your grill and chair and chug your last beers.
It was a true original: a turkey patty beneath a beef patty, with mozzarella cheese, three slices of tomato, and an even layer of French Onion Sunchips in between. Easily pleased as I am, I was in good spirits when I settled into my seat in Section 105—across some Villa fans half-heartedly and unsuccessfully asking Juan Pablo Angel for a wave—and I left in similar mood at the end of 90 minutes.
In a classy move by the organization, each of the first 7,500 fans at the stadium was given a free supporter’s scarf, and the added color in the stands definitely improved the aesthetic side of the game’s atmosphere early on. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it’s the little things like this that will ultimately combine to elevate the soccer experience at Giants Stadium to where we all would love it to be.
It was also a smart move, I think, to pack as many people as possible onto the side of the field opposite the benches and condense the ESC crowd behind the goal. Tighter confines heighten group awareness. And I’m sure it looked better on television.
I was just starting to soak all of this in, bloated, when Dave van den Bergh’s 25-yard strike put the Red Bulls ahead, 1-0. Columbus Crew captain Frankie Hejduk deserves a warm “thank you” from Red Bull fans for coming out completely unprepared to play and giving the lanky Dutchmen the three big steps he generally needs to line up a decent shot. Crew keeper Will Hesmer was also kind enough to bungle said shot off the bounce. So thanks, you two guys.
Van den Bergh was eventually announced on the stadium PA as the game’s Man of the Match. He showed up on the score sheet with a goal and an assist (though I think Angel deserves most of the credit on the second goal for keeping the long corner alive with some good hustle and a clever flick) and he was his usual smooth self in three positions—left midfield, defensive midfield, and left back—over the course of the game.
But while the shiny surface of his shaved dome might be the only smooth thing about Seth Stammler, he was my personal pick for Man of the Match. As one of two defensive midfielders in Juan Carlos Osorio’s 3-5-2, he was an absolute pit bull, charging one loose ball after another with reckless abandon, and he never stopped running. For 90 minutes, Stammler looked like the prototype for an MLS player on turf—the anti-Caudio Reyna—with quick reflexes and a dogged determination that kept him a half step ahead of every awkwardly bouncing ball and deflected pass.
Stammler’s play for me was the highlight of an overall strong defensive performance by the Red Bulls (save for Jeff Parke’s inexplicable, studs up challenge, which had me sitting there with the same confused expression I get while watching Rock of Love with Bret Michaels—”wait, what just happened?”), and watching them keep their shape for 90 minutes, I was reminded of an interview Osorio gave to the New York Times’ Jack Bell last year when the Colombian was still with the Fire, and this illuminating quote:
“When I was working for Man City I remember the year Chelsea won the league, they had something like 18 1-0 win and I think that’s a sign of well-balanced team. Chelsea have many players that cost over 15-to-20 million pounds, but they didn’t go for broke every game. They defended properly as a team with numbers and scored one goal or two and it was enough to win the championship. I think that works well for us, too.”
I love goals and attacking play as much as anyone, but after all these years of frustration, I can’t help but be excited at the prospect of the Red Bulls’ not losing points from cheap goals and messy defending.
Now excuse me till next week, I’ve got to get on a treadmill.