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Posted by John Brewin on 04/18/2010

Red Bulls sing of tossed salads and lacks of skill © Getty Images

As a result of the extended global terrorism being carried out by the country who brought you Einar from the Sugarcubes, Eggert Magnusson and Jon Pall Sigmarsson, I am enjoying an extended stay on the eastern seaboard of the United States. As a result of that unpronounceable volcano, I largely missed out on a momentous weekend of Premier League action, and was sometimes even forced to follow matters on Soccernet...

So, a sporting fix was required, and notwithstanding an abortive attempt to visit the new Yankees stadium that collapsed after being quoted the type of price that may well have given Uncle Malc Glazer his lead, it seemed right and proper to check out soccer played US-style. So began a trip to Harrison, New Jersey and Red Bull Arena, the spanking new home to the New York Red Bulls.

The stadium itself is placed in a foreboding corner of the former colonies. Many a modern English stadium is part of an unloved industrial estate but by comparison, the Arena's setting makes Trafford Park look like a deer sanctuary in the Scottish Highlands. With Gotham itself menacingly casting both light and shadow, one felt as if on the edge of the world itself. Some confusion followed in actually getting into the stadium, with the stated Gate D, halfway round the stadium, not actually open. But in contrast to English football fans' rush to make kick-off and perhaps influenced by other Stateside sports, in which much of the prime action occurs late on, we were not alone in arriving well after the opening whistle. It is not just on the pitch that things happen at a markedly different pace to what we are used to in England.

At this point it would probably be expected that as an elitist snob - as I was labelled in criticism of my previous entry - I would choose to cock a snook at Major League Soccer and its foibles. But no, not a bit of it. For the record, I am often knowingly guilty of footballing snobbery but found this a refreshing and energising experience. OK, I can't say that the football on show was particularly great and I'll confess that my late arrival meant that I was not aware of the 2-1 scoreline until I watched the highlights of the game with FC Dallas the following morning. Therefore, I will not offer too much analysis of the play itself, though Juan Pablo Angel, the eventual match-winner, moves a lot less than he once did as an Aston Villa player but, truly, I rather enjoyed myself.

Recent months have seen me attend matches in Israel, Holland and the good old England I was once able to call home, but this was the best atmosphere I have been part of for some while. Being placed with the Red Bulls' Ultras in their new home behind the goal in the celebrated Section 101 certainly helped. A constant barrage of chants, some beguiling in their innocence and lack of bad language, and some less so, this was the type of support one occasionally comes across on the European continent. Youth is given its head as prices are not eye-wateringly high. Thus, people of all ages can attend and not just the 30-and-upwards malcontents that fill many a British stadium because they're the only ones who can afford it.

Unlike other US sports I have attended, there was no need for a reliance on pumped-in music to generate an atmosphere. Indeed, the dread Black Eyed Peas' auto-tuned attempts to convince us what a good evening they'll be having were mercifully drowned out by a tremendous half-time drum and slam-dancing display from a group of largely Hispanic fans. It was great fun with smoke and beer flying everywhere and cowbells a-clackering.

The party continued into the second half as Red Bulls stole a last-minute win in circumstances of which the dramatics sadly evaded me. A seeming lack of a visible scoreboard did not aid my comprehension. Nevertheless, Angel showed class and belief in taking and scoring, in injury time, a second penalty when a first had been saved well by Dario Sala. Dallas' Argentine keeper was targeted throughout his stint in front of Section 101, his name eventually bastardised into a well-aired chant of "toss your salad". This was a terrace highlight alongside the quaint "you've got no skill" and somewhat incongruous "we hate Tottenham".

At the other end, Senegalese keeper Bouna Coundoul made a series of superb stops, blocks and claws that allowed Red Bulls to stage their grandstand finish, and both showed why many an MLS-er has been able to offer their wares as a goalie across the Atlantic. Of course, across the water is from where many an influence is drawn at Red Bulls, though Latin American culture is most apparent in the fervour of support, yet this occasion convinced me that soccer has successfully developed its own identity in the United States.

So, a recommended experience. Would I go again? Yes, of course. Will I be going plenty more times? That all depends on Eyjafjallajokull.


Posted by Bart on 04/18/2010

Nice article!!

Although I live in the vicinity of Golden Balls, I have never gone to an MLS match..out of snobbery I am embarrassed to admit. But you make the MLS sound fun.

Posted by Ed Lane on 04/19/2010

I don't know who this bloke is but I like the cut of his jib.

Posted by Alfredo Perez on 04/19/2010

Great. Now that you went, can you change Giants Stadium as the venue of the Red Bulls. Check your schedule section.

Posted by Cyrus on 04/19/2010

"Dallas' Argentine keeper was targeted throughout his stint in front of Section 101, his name eventually bastardised into a well-aired chant of "toss your salad". This was a terrace highlight alongside the quaint "you've got no skill" and somewhat incongruous "we hate Tottenham". "

Haha, those New Yorkers are crafty wordsmiths! But why do they hate Tottenham? I thought cocks and bulls were supposed to be friends.

Posted by Joe on 04/19/2010

If you're back on the East Coast later this year, catch a Philly Union game! We've got atmosphere galore!

Posted by Matt on 04/19/2010

Good stuff - glad you enjoyed it!

Posted by Matt on 04/19/2010

Thanks for the write-up - I was the guy in the middle of 101 with the trumpet. Next time you're in town you should pre-game with us at some of the local pubs, mostly of a Portuguese/Brazilian bent. $2 Stellas and all the exclusive interviews with drunk New Yorkers you could hope for.

Also, never, ever bother going to Philly. Their games are like a kick-around at a bad frat party.

Posted by EC on 04/19/2010

Bout time ESPN Soccernet started to take notice of the MLS. The coverage of the MLS here is terrible.

Posted by irishapple21 on 04/19/2010

How did you miss the scoreboard? It's on the wraparound screen in all four corners of the stadium.

Glad you enjoyed your visit. RBNY fans are the best!

Posted by Pocket Hercules Gomez on 04/19/2010

There are always some dingleberries who try to sneak in references to overseas teams whom they ostensibly support. Sad that one of our Europoseurs got caught doing so. I do know that in the past, there were pommie ESC who supported Spurs who had to put up with the cluelessness of the native NYers who somehow think they're from Islington.

The upshot is that the foreign club stuff in 101 is (a) rare, (b) the work of one or two misfits, and (c) wankywankery that basically everyone looks down upon.

Posted by Pocket Hercules Gomez on 04/19/2010

"catch a Philly Union game! We've got atmosphere galore!"

Shorter Philly Matt: "look at me, look at meeeee!"

Philly Union: one atmosphere-free game so far, in a mostly empty NFL mausoleum.

Posted by Kevin on 04/19/2010

Glad u enjoyed the game... er, match! FYI, the scoreboards are located in all 4 corners of the arena. Not sure how you could have possibly missed em!

Posted by nick on 04/20/2010

i had a very similar experience at a new england revolution game

great drums and atmosphere with lots of flag waving. the four goal comeback didnt hurt either.


Posted by Sea Tac Sounder on 04/21/2010

Get yourself to the West Coast and Seattle to see what an atmosphere of 36,000 in the USA is like for Sounders FC.

Posted by Jeremy on 04/21/2010

Everyone knows that Toronto FC is the place to be in MLS for "atmosphere". Winning is another thing entirely.

Posted by andrew on 04/22/2010

I also attended this match - my first MLS game. And yes the goalkeeping was superb.

Posted by Steve on 04/22/2010

I'm delighted to see (finally) that someone at Soccernet has seen the light that says " many of our faithful readers/followers are not only Yanks, but supporters of this admittedly inferior product. Maybe it's time for at least some of the US Fan/MLS bashing to settle down. Though it is not, and never will be on a par with anything from the UK or the Continent, perhaps it has it's place as an entertaining and competitive stateside surrogate. Thanks, Mr. Brewin

Posted by scottyyahmps on 04/25/2010

"Philly Union: one atmosphere-free game so far, in a mostly empty NFL mausoleum."


35,000 counts as both atmosphere-free and mostly empty?

Neither wordsmiths nor mathematicians amongst the lot of whatever sorry side you support, right?

Get over yourself, telling silly little lies doesn't make you more significant in anyone's eyes.

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