The past can provide understanding, but it shouldn’t define you. Okay, Merced?
Heartbreak and confusion litter Metro history. Potential never realized. Countless dreams decimated. Year after year, the Red Bulls consistently fail to live up to the lofty expectations of Tri-State area fans. The cynicism bred amongst the countless playoff struggles colors the perception of fans and pundits throughout the league.
Editorial: Forget history Merced
In 2018, the Red Bull faithful find themselves in familiar territory. Filled with dread. Filled with loathing.
The Red Bulls win this weekend pushed their point total to 62, the most in franchise history. The team sports the stingiest defense in the league, the best home record in the league, and there are still three matches left to play this season.
Yet, in the middle of the historic season, fans are still waiting for the other shoe to drop. The weight of Metro history is inescapable for so many. Letting go is hard.
But it is time. Time for the fans, the players, the coaches, the front office, and the fans to forget the past.
Being the first team to win MLS Cup for this franchise sits in the mind of the players. Sacha Kljestan said as much after the failed playoff run in 2016. You can see it in the way the team plays in these matches. Tentative. Tight. Fans share those nerves too.
The feeling that doom is only ever a moment away inhabits the mind like a virus. Every failed pass, every missed opportunity feels like a critical failure. Every goal conceded feels fated. A lack of confidence leads to hesitation. Hesitation leads to mistakes. Mistakes compound and the hill becomes to steep to climb.
A short memory is an athletes best friend. That’s what makes this Red Bulls team dangerous.
The Red Bulls lost the Open Cup final last season, so what? What does that truly mean to the players this year? Experience in the final and experience in knockout competitions is far more useful. This team has a lot of experienced, succesful players.
The core of the Red Bulls success this season revolves around Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, and Aaron Long. It’s no coincidence they comprised the core of another very successful team. The 2016 USL Champion New York Red Bulls II.
Derrick Etienne Jr., Florian Valot, and Vincent Bezecourt also played prominent roles in the Champion Baby Bulls. Valot and Bezecourt found their seasons cut short due to injury, and Etienne is rounding into form at the right time of year. He can be an explosive super-sub.
Other young players pepper the squad from Michael Murillo to Alex Muyl. They all have one thing in common. They are fearless. That fearlessness is born not just from youth, but that all important belief in themselves and their role in the system. They trust the system, and the results speak for themselves.
Letting go of past will create room for this team and its fans to grow. Until you do, you won’t reach the promised land.
At 62 points, the Red Bulls are having the 10th best season ever in MLS, seven points behind Toronto FC’s “greatest team in MLS history” season. If the Red Bulls win out, they could end the season with 71 points, eclipsing the previous record, and possibly losing out on the Supporter’s Shield anyway.
So forget the past. Holding on only brings heartache and doubt. It doesn’t matter that they failed before Merced, because they will pick themselves up and try again. You once told me that you are only as good as your last game. If that’s true, then it doesn’t matter how many times this team has shot itself in the foot, because yesterday, they won.
Photo by John Perdicaro