Tonight the New York Red Bulls take on Toronto FC in Harrison, NJ. It is the home Major League Soccer debut of Thierry Henry, but is there more to tonight’s game then just Henry’s debut? Is it the beginning of a new era in New York soccer history?
To be honest, I probably would couple tonight’s game along with Saturday’s match against the Los Angeles Galaxy as the potential bellwether, the moment when soccer changes forever in the Big Apple.
New York’s other enormous signing, Mexico national team captain Rafa Marquez, will be away playing with El Tri tonight. But by Saturday evening, after New York and Los Angeles play before a sellout crowd at America’s best soccer stadium, fans of the beautiful Game may have much to be excited about, or the Red Bull faithful will be left alone once again.
Keep in mind that I am not discussing this from the “on the field” point of view. For the Red Bulls, these two games are important, but there is much more work to be done in order to truly call them MLS Cup contenders. They certainly need more attacking creativity from the midfield, either by finding a traditional #10 or from better wing play. And the defense is questionable at best. Even with Marquez and Henry, the Red Bulls probably don’t have enough to win it all. But there is much more to this week then just results.
Questions will be answered in the coming days, and we have no way of knowing what those answers will be.
After years of floundering in the nation’s largest media market, Major League Soccer finally has an owner and an organization that are willing to fork over serious cash to try and make a dent in what has been, up to this point anyway, an extremely stubborn sports zeitgeist.
After tonight there are no more excuses, no more reason to ignore this team. Red Bull has done everything the elusive New York soccer fan could ask for and more.
They built a fantastic stadium with all the mass transit fans could ever want. The games are affordable and the atmosphere is loud and exciting. Now, New York has taken the ultimate plunge and gone out and brought in two serious and expensive international superstars who are not past their prime to play for what is a competitive and winning team. If this doesn’t crack the armor then maybe nothing ever will.
So this week will either be remembered as the start of a new era, or the last gasp of a failed experiment. Attendance will be good for both of these games, but what about the next game and the game after that? If the fans don’t start showing up now, there is a good chance they never will.