The New York Red Bulls are home to three of the four highest-paid players in MLS, and the only thing the franchise has to show for it is a bunch of Red Bulls gear circulating around Mexico and a half-empty stadium.
No trophies. No championships. Just a miserably faithful fanbase.
$13.8 million, that is the combined salaries of Thierry Henry ($5.6 million), Rafa Márquez ($4.6 million) and Tim Cahill ($3.6 million).
In recent years, the Red Bulls have adopted the prototypical New York blueprint when it comes to building a championship team—throw a bunch of money at stuff and hope it sticks.
In the last decade, the New York Yankees have approximately spent a combined $1.94 billion in payroll for one World Series title.
The New York Knicks spent $63.4 million last year to celebrate their only playoff victory like an NBA championship. They would be obliterated and eliminated by the Miami Heat just three days later.
The 2012 Red Bulls are just the latest installment of spending big to come up small in the definitive moments of the season. Their league-high $16.7 million payroll could not even produce a single goal in the playoffs.
(Unless you are willing to count Bill Hamid’s incompetence as a goalkeeper. I certainly am not.)
Cahill and his $3.6 million salary has to accept some culpability for his subpar play since his arrival from Everton; however, given the recent reports of Cahill playing through a tear in his calf (via Franco Panizo, Red Bulls beat writer), I will reserve my judgements on him for a later date.
Not to mention, the leadership qualities Cahill exuded following New York's loss are promising for the Red Bulls.
Henry, however, is a different story. The MLS’ highest-paid player did not take a crucial free kick in the waning moments of Thursday’s match.
His excuse? The free kick was best suited for a left-footed taker (via Ives Galarcep).
While it is hard to knock a man whose incredible talents (15 goals with 12 assists) carried New York to the playoffs, it must be done. When you are paid $5.6 million, you take that free kick, period.
Left footed or not, Roy Miller is not paid the big bucks ($112,495) to take the most important shot of the season.
Having said all that, the title for the biggest waste of money in MLS history belongs to Márquez.
Henry has always voiced his support for his former Barcelona teammate, but it is in his best interest if he bites his tongue this time around.
Márquez seemed disinterested from the start of Thursday’s match (one might wonder if his halftime spat with Hans Backe in the first leg of the series had anything to do with it).
His first yellow 61 minutes into the match foreshadowed the monumental error that would ultimately cost New York a victory. That selfish and toxic personality finally sank the hearts of Red Bulls fans everywhere.
New York has paid $4.6 million for a man that started only 32 of 68 games since his arrival. His mysterious injuries, nasty shots at teammates and postgame antics finally culminated in a brutal tackle that sent him off in the 75th minute.
Márquez has expressed his interest in being loaned during the offseason. For the sake of the franchise, it is best if he does not return from that destination, wherever it may be.
Wondering what could have been, the Red Bulls will now be forced to watch the Houston Dynamo and D.C. United battle for a spot in the MLS Cup Finals. The combined salaries for the two teams is a whopping $7.3 million.
For those of you doing the math at home, that’s $6.5 million less than the combined salaries of Márquez, Henry and Cahill. That is enough left over to purchase the entire Seattle Sounders roster as well ($4.2 million).
Changes are coming in New York.
The decision to no longer extend the contract of head coach Hans Backe and the hiring of Andy Roxburgh as the new sporting director exemplify that, but the most imperative change that must be made is a change in philosophy.
This is how jerseys are sold. This is not how championships are won. With another team set to arrive in New York, it would behoove the Red Bulls to get it right sooner than later.
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