The history of the New York Red Bulls is a history of failure and Atlanta on Sunday may just be another chapter in the Book of Fail.
Editorial – This is Where Red Bulls Always Fail
Don’t believe me? Look back at the 22-year history of the club and see how many championships they’ve won (Supporters Shield is not a championship), or how many times they’ve been favored in a major contest but somehow managed to come up short.
Just last year, the team blew through the US Open Cup, reaching the final for the first time in their history, only to fall short to Sporting KC with an abysmal performance. Bradley Wright-Phillips disappeared, the defense made strange choices, and the head coach shied away, strategically, from what brought them to the brink of success.
In steps Atlanta United. Gerardo “Tata” Martino has brought an awakening to Major League Soccer with a South American style that, while attempted in the United States, has never executed to this type of success. In two seasons Josef Martinez has broken scoring records and the team has packed a football stadium with rabid fans in a place where many never thought the game would thrive.
Yes, they haven’t won anything yet. However the feeling around the team is that they are knocking on the doorstep with MLS Cup willing to open the door. For New York, it is always a knock but never an answer.
Talk to any die-hard Red Bulls fan or pundit deep in the trenches with this team, and they’ll tell you that the building blocks for success have been laid. That same tired line. Thrown around since Red Bull first took over and fantastic players like Jozy Altidore poured out of the team.
It has led to trophies for other teams who picked up the pieces of shattered hopes but it never changed the culture for New York. Even when Red Bull Arena opened and Thierry Henry took the league by storm, the team still failed to make a final with their closest effort being a losing effort against New England in 2014.
Tyler Adams impending departure heightens the immediacy. While the spin that New York has a farm system full of “Tyler Adams” type players, the truth is very different. Players of that caliber only come along so often.
Most of the times they are generational and New York has made a habit of departing with some of these talents in the past: Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Tim Ream. Many have gone on to lift trophies with other clubs while the Red Bulls sit and wonder why success seems to always elude their grasp.
The academy will produce MLS players but depending on it to produce another Adams is not just asking for the world but perhaps asking for divine intervention as well.
The battle against Atlanta United on Sunday is pitched as a battle for the Supporters Shield, but that truthfully doesn’t matter. What this game represents is more of a chance for New York to rewrite their own history and not let the shiny new toy push them even further down the toy box.
It is a chance, on a national stage, to grab the proverbial brass ring and prove that a made in USA (or Germany) style of Red Bull football can beat the flashy style that took Argentina and Barcelona to new heights. But expectations should be kept in the realm of realism, because when it matters most, the New York Red Bulls always fail.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography