I managed to get my hands on some fairly cheap tickets to watch American soccer being played live and not part of FIFA ’13 or some other made-up special effects video. It’s easy to be somewhat sceptical about the quality of soccer played in a country that mainly focuses on basketball, ice hockey, American football and baseball, but I had my hopes up high when the likes of Tierry Henry and David Beckham moved to the US to promote and improve soccer further within the US.
Many people don’t like David Beckham and believe he’s rubbish at playing soccer, but I believe he’s one of the best players we’ve seen in modern soccer history. Tierry Henry had a fantastic career at Arsenal and moving to the US could only be promising … and he joined the New York Red Bulls.
My daughter and I left for the game early as we had been told that there would be plenty of pre-game activities – and also to avoid traffic in the area + getting a decent parking spot.
Little did we know that the majority of these pre-game activities were for the adult kids and most of them involved consuming quantities of Bud Light while playing Playstation soccer (probably FIFA). I decided my daughter was too young to introduce to any kind of alcohol related games and I didn’t really trust her to drive home either. Remember, she’s only nine years old!
They of course had a souvenir shop where the wannabe and hardcore fans could buy the latest gear, scarfs, keyrings, hats … anything that could fit the logo on to it could be bought. Just to entice the shoppers, they had hired some young (and attractive) ladies, who managed to sell even the strangest gear to oversized (bellies) men. Just as an FYI, the official Red Bulls shirt costs $97.50 excl. tax!
Like for any sport event, the first thing that needs to be done is getting a greasy meal normally consisting of deep fried food, cheese burgers, fries and/or chicken. The selection and quality of food was top class; tacos, burgers, pizza, ice creams, hot dogs and a large variety of beverages. It was fast food heaven! Much better than the grub you can buy at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Bulls Arena is built in the middle of what looks like badlands, and is surrounded buy old industrial warehouses and the backside of Newark/Harrison. But, it was a very nice stadium.
We ate the food and found our seats. I was prepared to have seats closer to the sun than to the pitch, but was happily surprised that we could actually see pitch and the players.
Initially it was pretty empty, but as we got closer to kick-off, the place got more packed. Packed is probably a little exaggerated. It was more like 2/3 full; 97.7% supporting the Red Bulls and the remaining 0.3% supporting the travelling team Vancouver. The remaining 2% were there just to get drunk.
On a high note, I got to see Thierry Henry play. He had lost a fair bit of his magic with the ball. In fact, I’m not sure he actually contributed much to the actual game, other than give out to the ref at times.
Game quality? Well, if you are familiar with the British Premier league, then you would understand when I say that the quality and skills of both teams were slightly below average. Most Championship teams in the UK would be able to play more elegant and high quality football, and they would probably beat either of the teams with some ease.
Hopefully both teams had an off day as there were few moments that were exciting. Most passes, attempts at goal, tactics and reading the game appeared to have been left in the dressing rooms.
However, it was a great atmosphere and I love watching soccer live. I still got into the game somewhat, and was disappointed that Red Bulls lost 1-2 to the away team, and that they had a player sent off.
I was utterly impressed with the organisation of the area and how the local police routed cars to/from the stadium, meaning we didn’t spend silly hours queuing to get home. The place was clean, excellent service and excellent facilities.
I would go back to watch more Red Bulls games purely for the entertainment and atmosphere. It was great value for money, if you discount the $40 I paid for two drinks, chicken fingers and a cheese burger. It’s kids friendly and safe.