New York Red Bull fans have been lucky this season.
The team is finally in a new stadium. The team not only finally signed Thierry Henry—long rumored to be coming—but they also brought in Mexico National Team captain Rafael Marquez. Most importantly, the team has gone from worst team in MLS to a legitimate title contender.
However, in the 15 years of the franchise’s existence, good fortune has not been the norm, which has left the fan base waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It may have finally done so.
Juan Pablo Angel, not only arguably the best player in team history but also the best Designated Player in the league’s history, is apparently unhappy.
The team’s leading scorer, this season and all-time, started last Thursday’s game against the streaking FC Dallas on the bench.
Pressing for goals, points, and momentum, Angel appeared as a substitute and was a key player in the Dallas own goal that would tie the game.
No big deal, right?
The team has a playoff spot pretty much wrapped up, and Angel has a history of injury issues. So, resting him and allowing newcomer Mehdi Ballouchy to get time with the first time was the right move one would think.
But there may be more than meets the eye here.
Angel, usually the consummate professional, has brushed off reporters questioning him about his role on the team. In the last year of his contract, there is no word from Red Bulls ownership of what they intend to do with him. There were rumors that Angel was shopped during the transfer window.
Is he being phased out of the lineup for good?
What happens beyond the season is one thing. Angel is 35 years old, has had lingering injury issues as said before, and he can be a streaky shooter. The Red Bulls may decide to go in another direction with their third DP slot.
However, Angel is instrumental to the team on the field and their championship aspirations this season.
Angel is a player with a lot of big game experience. He demands a lot of attention on the field from opposing defenses, which opens up a lot of space. He is one of the most talented and clutch players in the league. He also has formed a great partnership and understanding with Henry.
Let’s also not forget that not only is he the team’s all-time leading scorer, but this season he also leads the team with 12 goals. In second place? Benchwarmer Salou Ibrahim and his three goals.
Things still have time to turn around. Going into the matchup with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Henry is inactive because of injury.
So, playing on a nationally televised game, looking for credibility, momentum heading into the postseason, and ratings (MLS wants this more so), Angel should be back in the starting lineup. A goal and/or a win and all of this could be forgotten, at least until after the season.
Maybe it really is nothing. Rumors, a rest in the lineup, and a bad day could cause New York media to spiral a bit out of control.
But with everything going so well, New York Red Bull fans can’t help but to look over their shoulders and expect the absolute worst.