Indentity crisis in Harrison? [Editorial]

Harrison, NJ – As the final seconds began to tick away, the frustrated supporters headed to the exits after witnessing yet another lackluster performance by the New York Red Bulls – This time at home.

The result? A galling two-goal loss to the Colorado Rapids, one that some would say that it shouldn’t have happened, but yet it did. One has to wonder if this is truly the best this squad can do. But one question remains unanswered: What happened to the identity that has placed this franchise to the cusp of a championship run?

When you look at the current roster, this is pretty much the same team that has set a record number of points last season, so the talent is there. At least expertise that an organization can build on.

Other teams have done just that, retooled their rosters after watching Atlanta United captured their first MLS Cup in just their second season in existence. The message was crystal clear: Develop and spend to win games and collect trophies now.

For the Red Bulls, three Supporters Shields in six seasons is nothing to scoff at. For any other franchise in MLS, they would kill their firstborn child for thier club to have that run of success. But try telling that to the supporters, who many of them feel that winning a cup is the ONLY satisfactory end to a successful season. Period. Full stop. Getting knocked out of the playoffs every season is the epitome of failure, regardless of how well the team played in the regular season.

So, injuries and subpar performances aside, what happened to the so-called identity that Red Bull Global was supposed to build on? It seems that character does indeed work as intended. Let’s see…

Works well in Salzburg.
Works well in Leipzig.
Functions just nicely in Brazil.
Harrison?

Well, aside from the reserve team, who just so happen to be doing quite well this season in the USL Championship, not very much. They won the USL Cup back in 2016, which was their first season in the league. They made appearances in the Eastern Conference final for three straight seasons. Many of their players have seamlessly made their transistion to the first team, thus becoming the model for consistency, using that very blueprint that was handed down by Ralf Rangnick.

So, again, what’s wrong?

Remember when I said that an organization has to both develop and spend on proven talent to win championships? That’s what’s missing. When this organization had the opportunity to do so, they wound up with a young striker that may be the heir apparent to club legend Bradley Wright-Phillips and not much else. Say for a few players from their NYRB II team. Suffice to say, that’s not enough, not nearly enough for a conference that is wide open for any organization to win a title.

And not nearly enough to satisfy the fanbase that this is beyond starving for a cup championship for twenty-four seasons and counting. A fanbase that has come to expect the high-octane, counter-pressing weapon effectively deployed on their rivals every week. A fanbase that has endured the taunts, mems, insults and soul-crushing losses and painful of all, the kick in the collective teeth from the mishaps from the front office.

Now, I could be the very needed Voice of Reason and attempt to explain to those that are fed up with this incessant string of organizational malaise, but when you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, it’s very hard to try to sway them otherwise, they don’t want to hear reason, they want to see wins.

And they want them now. Along with the deserved spotlight and attention worthy of one being an elite team in a relatively young league.

If there is ONE thing I wish to preach to my fellow supporters is something that’s pretty much in short supply…

Patience.

Once the last whistle of the season has blown, change is on the horizon, this team as it is currently constructed is not where it should be. That alone is painfully evident. The league has noticed, the supporters have noticed, certainly, management has noticed.

The question is this: Will the changes either energize us for the season ahead or will it frustrate us even further? One thing is for certain. When the offseason for the New York Red Bulls arrives (hopefully later rather than sooner) it will be interesting.

Meanwhile, see you all at The Cathedral.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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