Going into the 2011 season, hopes were high for the New York Red Bulls. After falling out in a shocking matter to the San Jose Earthquakes the year before in the playoffs, hopes were high that the team would perform well this season.
For just over the first two months of the season, New York was the best side in the league and with the acquisition of Dwayne de Rosario, it looked like the Red Bulls were going to be a hard win for any side to defeat.
However, once the weather started to heat up in Harrison, the Red Bulls became cold. Over a four-month stretch, the Red Bulls were only able to win three times while drawing 12 times.
Due to their poor play, the Red Bulls found themselves on the outside looking in for the MLS playoffs.
On a Wednesday night game that was going to be crucial for the Red Bulls, New York put together a microcosm of its season on display at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls lost 3-1 to their Western Conference counterpart, giving up three goals within the first 15 minutes. All three of the goals that Salt Lake scored were due in large part to defensive errors and poor communication.
The Red Bulls were able to score a great goal in the second half from Joel Lindpere but the Red Bulls were unable to finish any of their other chances in the match.
Following the match, Rafa Marquez criticized his teammates, saying "there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I." Throughout the match, Marquez was booed every time he touched the ball.
At this time, the Red Bulls are still alive in the playoff hunt as they are a point behind Portland for the final playoff berth. But no matter how you put it, this season has been a failure for the Red Bulls.
For starters, the Red Bulls have proven that despite having some of the best talent in the league with some of the biggest goal scorers, the Red Bulls defense has let them down time and time again.
Even though Tim Ream is hyped as one of the top defenders in the league and Marquez is a huge name, the teamwork between the two is nonexistent.
After the end of this season, a much-needed change will be made in the defense that should see Marquez move up to midfield. Ream also needs to gain maturity before he can truly be one of the top defenders in the league.
This winter the Red Bulls should try to acquire a strong, veteran defender to work with Ream to prevent the mistakes he has made this season.
On top, the 4-4-2 system will need to be changed in some way. The Red Bulls should instead make a move to a 4-3-3 with Juan Agudelo staring on top with Thierry Henry and Luke Rogers.
The fact that Agudelo is not starting for the Red Bulls is a crime in itself. Agudelo should be starting for the Red Bulls considering how much of talent he has along with the fact that he is a strong goalscorer.
We should also see Hans Backe removed from his spot as manager. Now, I understand that Erik Soler said Backe will remain in power for the rest of the season, but considering how the team played this season, a new manager should be appointed once the season ends.
Backe's system just has not worked in MLS this season, and it is unlikely it will help the Red Bulls will be able to pull off any strong results under this system.
And finally, the Red Bulls need to start getting more fans into Red Bull Arena. Red Bull Arena is undoubtedly one of the nicest soccer stadiums in the United States and is a perfect home for the Red Bulls.
However, despite playing a top club such as Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night, the Red Bulls were only able to draw 14,266 people, despite having an arena that can fit 25,189.
The Red Bulls should decide that it is important to get more fans to go to Red Bull Arena instead of staying home. This starts with lowering ticket prices and putting together a strong campaign for fans to be there.
The Red Bulls have been able to sell out one match this season to date (not including the MLS All-Star Game), and there are too many empty seats at Red Bull Arena.
Red Bull Arena can get pretty loud when the place is packed, and it was loud on Wednesday night despite being nearly halfway empty.
If the Red Bulls can start drawing more fans to Red Bull Arena, they will get more publicity and will be able to have the atmosphere that all soccer stadiums should have.
Now the Red Bulls are a team that looks like they can take that next step next year and bring an MLS Cup to New York for the first time.
If they can at least do some of these ideas, they should finally look like a side capable of reaching the next level. If not, it will just be the "same old Red Bulls."
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