Red Bull Arena debut is a memorable night

Red Bull Arena debut is a memorable night

Major League Soccer

Red Bull Arena debut is a memorable night

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RedBullsSantos (ISIphotos.com) 

Photo by ISIphotos.com

The New York Red Bulls opened their new home in grand style, scoring a 3-1 exhibition victory against Brazilian club Santos in the inaugural match at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

Joel Lindpere, Mike Petke and Dane Richards delivered first-half goals as New York's revamped squad showed off sharp passing and quality finishing that was sorely lacking in the team's nightmare 2009 season.

The new $200 million stadium was the star of the show, leaving spectators awed at its sightlines and acoustics. The proximity fans have to the field, coupled with the canopy roof, help create a loud atmosphere that should make future matches at Red Bull Arena that much more exciting.

The stadium's opening wasn't without its issues, from turf that hadn't quite taken root, to terrible traffic problems that will need to be sorted out in coming weeks, but overall the night was still a rousing success, both on and off the field, for the Red Bulls.

Boasting a diverse crowd that included thousands of Brazilian fans from nearby Newark, as well as countless New York-based fans who made the trip via the nearby PATH station, Red Bull Arena drew an impressive audience to its debut and entertained them with good soccer as well as festivities that included celebrity appearances and a fireworks display.

For the Red Bulls fans in attendance, the match marked a moment they had waited more than a decade for. On the field, the team also impressed. Goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul put to bed any questions about who the Red Bulls starting goalkeeper would be by making a pair of highlight-reel saves early in the second half to keep Santos from clawing back into the match.

The centerback pairing of Petke and Tim Ream looked solid throughout the night, thwarting a Santos attack that showed glimpses of ability led by the cat-quick Neymar. Petke and Ream combined on the Red Bulls' second goal of the night when Ream headed a cross toward goal that Petke side-volleyed into the net.

Just a minute later, Richards made the score 3-0 with a long-range blast off a perfect cross-field pass from Mac Kandji.

Lindpere showed off the two-way midfield ability that has him poised for a big season, while Costa Rican left back Roy Miller also continued his strong pre-season form with another solid effort.

The Red Bulls begin MLS play on Saturday vs. the Chicago Fire. With another sell-out crowd expected, the Red Bulls' second game at Red Bull Arena should boast excitement similar to Saturday night's opener, but the debut of Red Bull Arena is a night that won't soon be forgotten by soccer fans in the New York/New Jersey area.

Did you go to the stadium opening? What did you think of Red Bull Arena? What were your favorite moments? Plan on going back?

Share your thoughts below.

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