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Red Bulls enter home opener uncertain of fan reaction

New York Red Bulls fans Red Bull Arena 78

photo by Jim O’Connor/USA Today Sports

By FRANCO PANIZO

HANOVER, N.J. — One of the last times the New York Red Bulls took to the field at Red Bull Arena, a rambunctious crowd watched on in ecstasy as the club pulled off a shut-out victory against arch-rivals D.C. United in the playoffs last November.

Fast forward to today, and there’s now a cloud of uncertainty, one that even the team feels, over what to expect from many of those same fans in Sunday’s home opener.

Much has changed for the Red Bulls since the end of last season, and it’s made for extreme tension between the club and its supporters. There’s a bitterness that still resides amongst a sizable portion of the fanbase over new sporting director Ali Curtis’ controversial decision to fire beloved head coach Mike Petke. This led to the construction of a fan-paid billboard off of a highway near Red Bull Arena depicting an image of Petke holding the 2013 Supporters’ Shield and the words “Red Bull Out” at the top.

It’s an ugly situation, and one that has New York players unsure of what kind of atmosphere will greet them in this weekend’s home game against D.C. United.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” goalkeeper Luis Robles told SBI. “The only thing that I can gameplan for is the other team. As far as what we have out there in the stands, I just hope, regardless of everything that went on, the fans are willing to give these guys a chance because we a have a good group of guys here and there’s only so much we can influence.

“The one thing that we can influence is the performance and the effort we give on the field, and I hope that they’re willing to give us that chance.”

For the Red Bulls, the Eastern Conference affair will provide them the first opportunity to impress the fans in an up-close-and-personal setting. The Red Bulls started the season with a respectable 1-1 road draw vs. Sporting Kansas City, but it was always going to be the first home game of 2015 that revealed just how forgiving the upset fans are over what transpired in the offseason.

If the Red Bulls’ last local appearance is any indication, things might go over smoother than some believe. At the club’s jersey unveiling at Wesbter Hall in Manhattan earlier this month, there was a real positive energy from the hordes of fans that packed in to meet and greet the players and new staff on the cusp of the season opener.

Curtis was tactfully not introduced on stage with the coaches and team, but he was in attendance and listened to those supporters who wanted to express their concerns. All in all, it was a pleasant night that largely contrasted the venomous and profane town hall meeting held by the club for its fans in January.

It also may have given the Red Bulls a glimmer of hope that Sunday could turn out to be a positive experience.

“It sounds like the crowd is going to be big,” said Marsch. “I think there’ll be energy and I think there’ll be emotion from everything that happened in the offseason to everything of what this game means and now trying to learn what this team is about. I think it’ll be pretty awesome, frankly, and I’m excited about it.

“I think Red Bull Arena is the best stadium in the league, and when it’s rocking it’s an amazing place to be and I feel so privileged to be able to call it home, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Much of New York’s roster has changed from last year to now, but the veteran core that remains and consists of the likes of Robles, captain Dax McCarty, and Bradley Wright-Phillips is plenty cognizant of what Sunday could be and represent.

The players have admittedly spoken about that amongst themselves over the last few weeks, and they’re going into the home opener with a slight different mentality than usual.

Yes, they want to win three points, but they also want to win back the supporters whose passion has transformed into apathy and anger.

“We want the fanbase to believe in this team and believe in what we want to accomplish,” said Robles. “I know in the very beginning it’s going to be difficult, but we expect the adversity, we expect the unexpected in this moment. Just from a personal level, we’ve got a good fanbase and I know that they’ve been susceptible to a lot of disappointment.

“But I hope they give us an opportunity to show what we have and what we’re capable of.”

Comments

  1. This Sunday vs the DC Scum is not the time and a place to deal w/ the Red Bull FO. It is a time to support the Red Bull players and help them beat the most despicable team and fan base in the league!

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  2. While other countries are busy improving on their player development system we travel around the world finding their sloppy seconds. Mickey Mouse league can only produce a Mickey Mouse. national team.
    We talk about wanting respect from other countries but that’s never going to come as long as we keep showing up to international competitions with half our team developed by another county.

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    • so i dont get it. rbny fans want big stars and get mad when we dont have big stars. then they say we want to give our youth and academy players a chance and when we do and start that cycle they are mad we dont have any stars hmmmmm.

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  3. I don’t see how I can support the players and not support Red Bull. I can’t really support either, and I’m sorry that guys like Robles, McCarty, Sam, BWP, and of course Dane have to endure this. I don’t know the other guys, an I’m not a fan of Miller. Truly the only way to bring change is to keep the #RedBullOut message consistent and not give Red Bull $$$. The crest is what the players play off and what has endured, and it’s this crest that can’t be supported and needs to sell.

    I understand the season ticket holders spent their money and so will get their value, but I hope they don’t renew and vote with their dollars and their feet next year. This year I’ve put my money into supporting NYCFC after supporting the Red Bulls since 2006. I’m looking forward to City beating the Red Bulls head to head this year. And I would like to see RBNY collapse and the Cosmos take over their spot in MLS.

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    • Ok but don’t pretend this is a principled stand. You’re going to support the shiny new team at the baseball stadium because you think it’ll be more fun and they’ll have a better team than RBNY. That’s fine but just admit you’re a frontrunner.

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      • This is a principled stand. I’ve stood by this club through many horrible decisions and horrible years. We wanted stability, in the locker room, amongst coaches, and even in the front office. Finally we had that with 3 years of Backe and then what should have been 3+ years of Petke, who bled for this club. Instead the re-hired Purple Drink poser De Grandpre flipped everything on its head by bringing in the Usurper Curtis who cleaned house of anyone who disagreed with his plan, with no connection, love or loyalty to this club. Just narcissism, egotism and ambition. Petke was fired, after being one of the best coaches in the league for 2 seasons, and lackey Marsch was brought in. Then a stable team was flipped. The supporters of this club have been totally betrayed. Yet if you continue to give money to Red Bull for anything, they won’t care how you feel and it will be business as usual. Well… While there may not have been an option before in this city, now there is. And former Red Bulls personnel are leading the Cosmos and NYCFC. So what it’s in a baseball stadium — I sat in Giants stadium for years and they didn’t even have an ownership interest in the team. My flipping loyalties is punishment to an organization that betrays its fans heartlessly, by taking away the only thing Red Bull cares about — my $$$. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It hurts to switch loyalties, that’s why I’m still reading about this team — old habits die hard. But the people that stay are the ones nit taking a principled stand, because they’re just bellying up to the bar and handing over their money sullenly to the people that abused them. That’s accepting victimization, not making a stand.

    • Agree with slow here. Switching to NYCFC is the easy way out. It is the act of someone buying a new pair of shoes, not the act of a supporter. If you want to make a statement, i love the idea posted above about wearing MetroStars gear.

      As to the merits of RBNY’s moves, I think the much more important barometer is what they do about DPs. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt — because i have little choice — as to whether can be a better coach than Petke. I am even willing to wait a bit to see if Curtis turns out to be a genius or a nincompoop. But much more disturbing to me is the Austrians’ obvious reluctance to acquire even a single DP despite the colossal savings that resulted from the departures of Henry and Cahill. Instead, of Curtis, i would love to hear press conferences — by telephone if necessary — with the person in Austria who holds the purse strings. That’s where the real power, and the real responsibility, lie.

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  4. Those that do show up this season should wear MetroStars gear, if they still have some in the back of the closet. Stop advertising for that rancid drink and that rancid company!!!

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    • there was a reason petke was fired. he wasnt a good coach, had no idea what he was doing. inherited a talented team mostly a one man team henry who was running the show literally henry was probably doing more coaching than petke and they were lucky to win the supporters shield that year,,

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  5. Done with this team.

    I expect there will be a good crowd but I hope not. It’s not about the players. It’s about standing up for the club you love. If you want it to mean something then by God you have to stand against the people who spit in your faces.

    When Ali Curtis is gone, Petke is rehired, and Red Bull is out, I’ll return. Until then, I support the team by doing what I can to reclaim it from imbeciles who threw away the biggest symbol of what set us apart from the corporate will of NYCFC (who proved they don’t care about the fans in NYC as much as Manchester).

    I still can’t believe the ineptitude.

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  6. The fans are behind the players no matter what, and we will be vocal in our support for the players all season long, regardless of how Sunday goes.

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  7. Adam Smith’s invicible hand always wins out.

    NY is going to be terrible, there is almost no way I am wrong in this assessment. As such, they will have to do something to get ticket sales up next year. And drafting first won’t be enough for most fans.

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  8. This is disgusting that our team should have to worry about anything other than winning the game. Fans in the arena should be there to support our players, not protest anything out of their control.

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    • If the fans don’t hold ownership accountable, who will? I think you’ll find that, when people make their voices heard, bad ownership is not entirely out of the fans’ control. #RedBullOut

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    • I don’t have a problem with protesting etc. The protesting fans all back the players, it’s ownership they have a problem with. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what the South Ward has up its sleeve.

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      • This, to me, is the correct attitude. Boycotting just depresses the franchise value and keeps the fans in bed with the owners they hate longer.

        Protesting and voicing displeasure with current management are good things — when prospective buyers see this,they see opportunity. When they see apathy and empty seats, they are far more likely to think that NYCFC has killed the market opportunity entirely.

      • You speak as if you’re talking about a logical owner fixated entirely on selling only if the franchise’s value is normal or high. That is not how RB operates. It is, and has always been, about its brand perception.

  9. Sadly, the only way RB leaves is if there isn’t $ to be made. And supporters associate being a true supporter with being there for the players live, ensuring that RB will continue to make $ and continue to stay. Like Wargames, the only way to win this game is to not play. #RedBullOut

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    • I understand this viewpoint and don’t have a problem with it. But most season ticket holders already paid for their tickets when Petke was fired. It’ll be interesting to see how many renewals they get next season. If they’re successful, which I don’t see happening, I think most people will come back.

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    • This is very much debatable. A lack of a visible fanbase is not good news if you are looking to attract a buyer.

      Red Bull doesn’t make or lose that much money off NYRB. That max profit/loss in any year is probably about $5 million. This is peanuts to the parent company. They won’t sell it just because it’s losing a couple million per year. A sale, on the other hand, could generate a few hundred million. This is much more interesting to Red Bull corporate.

      NYRB fans are not doing themselves a favor by sabotaging the team’s valuation as an asset.

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      • Agree with you Diego, to an extent. It’s not the $ loss alone necessarily. It’s the implication that a lack of support & $ loss brings that’s much more important to RB – an increasingly negative perception of the brand. That is the only thing that will motivate RB GMBH to get out of dodge.

  10. This was smart scheduling on the part of MLS, because the one thing Pink Cow fans hate above everything else is DC United.

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  11. At this point I think the fans need to back away from the team altogether. Red Bull is bad for soccer (See Germany where opposing teams refuse to play Red Bulls) If a decent boycott could be made I think they really might leave/get pushed out. I love American Soccer and have done my best to support this club but …..no tickets or t-shirts for me and my family until #RedBullOut!

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    • Already paid for my four season tickets when Petke was fired and they aren’t giving refunds so I’m not just going to throw that money away to try and make a point. Besides, I still support the players.

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    • If people want to keep up the delusion that clubs today aren’t owned by billion dollar oil tycoons and Sheikhs, I suppose then it’s bad.

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    • A lot of fans bought season tickets already. Wether they show up or not the Red Bulls organization already profited from them. Also, fans who already have season tickets aren’t going to miss the entire season after they already purchased the tickets.

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  12. I feel bad for Robles because that the angry fans are not upset with him or the players. The fan base hates Ali Curtis and still want answers.

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  13. Of course the players should be supported…

    It’s not their fault the ownership group is out of touch, pulling back investment, and only interested in using the club to promote their nasty swill of a drink product.

    #RedBullOut! Sell our club!

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