The 2013 New York Red Bulls had a roller coaster season.
There were moments of brilliance and others of sheer frustration. However despite the seemingly sporadic levels of commitment and success the team did manage, thanks to a final day 5-2 drubbing of the lowly Chicago Fire, they managed to secure the 2013 Supporter’s Shield- the first major award in the team's history.
Considering the talent on hand with the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill on the current roster, one would have imagined that this team would have accomplished something of this magnitude in years past.
That being said, you could see the emotion in Mike Petke’s eyes upon sealing the victory and the trophy. Petke, a New York native, team manager and former Red Bulls stalwart in defence, spent the first four years of his playing career with the team then known as the MetroStars and returned for a two year spell from 2008-10.
He, more than all but the most loyal fans, is keenly aware of how much this trophy means to the club, and how important breaking the hoodoo of endless defeat in the face of victory is to the players and fans alike.
Having been crowned regular season champions, and winners of the Easter Conference of the league, the Red Bulls had a first round bye, followed by a second round meeting with Houston Dynamo, a well-seasoned, experienced team; even if it is not one filled with superstar talent like their rivals for this match-up.
Keep in mind that the Dynamo are runners up in this competition twice running, an admirable accomplishment for any team, let alone for a team that spends at about mid-table in terms of player salary.
The first leg started off well for New York, the players were doing a job and they had managed to work up a 2-0 lead away to Houston.
Then it all fell apart.
A defensive blunder in the 51st minute from David Carney gifted the Dynamo a lifeline. 15 minutes later the Red Bulls luck turned fully sour with the harsh sending off of Jamison Olave via a straight red card. In the dying minutes, the Dynamo snatched the all-important equaliser to bring with them to Red Bull Arena for the second leg.
Unfortunately for New York, the second leg was much of the same. Again the team took the lead and was absolutely dominating proceedings, only to see another defensive gaffe gift the opposition a lifeline in the form of a bizarre sideways pass directly in front of the New York goal, which was intercepted by Brad Davis and calmly slotted into the back of Luis Robles’ goal.
Houston would go on to sneak a winner in extra time despite the Red Bulls out-shooting their opponents and generally looking superior.
While the defeat will be hard for the players and fans alike the claiming of the Supporter’s Shield should not be taken lightly, it is a great victory for the club.
Also, there is much to look forward to next season. We are very likely to witness the return of the team’s top goal scorers Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry next season, in addition to a majority of the other key players.
What is most exciting about this team is that there is room for another top class contributor, and it is clear what the team will be looking for in the off-season.
In a piece published on the MLSsoccer website, Petke was quoted as saying: “First and foremost, we need a creative-type player, whether it be an attacking midfielder or just someone that can play in the midfield… we need someone who can thread those passes, and we have guys that are capable and hard workers, but we don’t have that true attacking, link-up type of player. Obviously, we’ll be looking for that.”
This got me thinking, assuming the team does keep a majority of their stand out performers, who could the Red Bulls add to this squad in the creative midfield role to really put the team over the top?
Who would you like to see the club sign? An ageing wonder that the team may squeeze the last few years of creativity out of like Ronaldinho, or perhaps someone younger with more potential like Mix Diskerud? Share your thoughts below.
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