>By Kenny Durell
Kenny Durell here, coming in from 3,000 miles to the East as an off-and-on again correspondent on live sporting events out here for my Sack Lunch-ers back in Davis. Well, it’s now a few weekends ago, but looking back, where I went and what I did was hands-down one of the best sporting events of my life, regardless of sport: an MLS game at the Red Bull Arena between the New York Red Bulls and the Kansas City Wizards. I journeyed out to the New Jersey hinter land (yeah, don’t let the New York name fool you; like the Jets and Giants, the Red Bulls play across the water in the Garden State) with two other Davisites, and hardcore fútbol fans, Isaac and Dot, who also both go to school on the East Coast for college.
I could try to explain with words the awesomeness and grandeur of coming onto this literal footballing mecca after a very typical New York hour on public transportation that included walking, the subway,some glimpses of the new work on the Ground Zero site, the New Jersey/New York PATH train,and some more walking, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking here.
The stadium was unbelievable from the outside alone, with huge billboards on storage facilities lining the walk to the stadium
announcing the newfound competitiveness of the New York MLS franchise after years of futility (link), and acoustics that literally made it sound like a jet plane engine starting up when the fans united in chants and oohs-and-ahhs.
And yet, inside might have been even better.
We paid 16 dollars apiece to sit eight rows up from the corner flag,and as you can see, it felt like you were right in the action.
I’ve never had that sort of experience in sports ever, save for one time sitting on the glass at a Kings hockey game, and even then, certainly not for the price I’d just paid. It was nothing less than breath taking, and truly felt as though you were an integral part of the action…though maybe being in the Red Bull ultra-fan zone might have been even more intense. I have the pictures, so decide for yourself I guess. Now on to the actual game.
Now, I fully admit that I know less than my Davis counterparts (specifically Evan) about MLS, its rankings, its best players etc., but thanks to my handy MatchDay handout, I was able to stay on track and know that the Red Bulls were fighting for first in the East with Columbus, while the Wizards were sitting in third in the East at the start of the game. And that Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez, the big paycheck “saviors” of NYC football, would both be starting, which was not a given because of nagging injuries to both.
The first and ultimately only goal of the game came six minutes in, not from either of the publicized stars, Marquez or Henry, who both had flashes of brilliance in passing, though struggled in finishing near the goal, but off the foot of Dane Richards after a heads up steal in the Wizards’ backfield. After that initial, early jolt of electricity into the stadium though, Bouna Coundoul, the Red Bulls’ goalie, provided the rest of the fireworks.
Even Isaac, a rabid Premier League and La Liga fanatic, was impressed at some points, especially with the soccer-specific set-up of the stadium and the skill, which went in spurts (great plays interspersed with less-than-stellar sequences). Twelve saves (to Nielsen, the Wizards’ goalie’s, four), eighty-four minutes, and a shutout later, Coundoul was unquestionably the most valuable player in the game, with three sprawling, reaction, diving stops and a handful of corners neutralized.
And, after such a performance, Coundoul thanked the very appreciative Red Bull faithful, much the way one would expect to see a star in Europe do, which because of the context obviously impressed me.
The Red Bulls grabbed first place from the Crew with the victory, locked up a playoff spot, and have since held that lead over the last few weeks, with the playoffs looming large (link). And, while Dot headed back to Princeton on her train, Isaac and I jumped on the PATH back to NYC, with many a Red Bull fan in tow.
If you like soccer at all, if you don’t like soccer, if you’re kind of into soccer, it doesn’t matter. The experience is too unique, the setting too epic, the whole deal way too economical to miss. If anyone who reads this is ever in New York, I will personally take it as an excuse to accompany him/her to a game, school, or activities be darned. It’s that good.
Over and out,