Bradley Wright-Phillips (left) set Red Bulls standards that will be difficult to duplicate. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Here are the top metro area soccer stories of the decade:
- 3 Shields, but no cups
The best way to describe the Red Bulls in the past decade? They were more marathon men than sprinters. They captured three Supporters Shields (2013, 2015 and 2018) but no MLS Cups. If this was Europe and many other parts of the globe, they would be considered champions. Here, in the land of the playoffs, they were considered underachievers in the postseason. And speaking of marathon men, Luis Robles set a remarkable record as he started 183 consecutive MLS matches.
- New kid on the block
New York City FC arrived as an expansion team 2015 to give us two MLS clubs in the area. After a rough start, City has rebounded to be a decent rival for the Red Bulls, who have dominated the Hudson River Derby. NYCFC has played at Yankee Stadium since its inception. It needs its own stadium. It can’t afford to keep playing in a baseball park.
- The birth of a new stadium
As the cusp of the decade, Red Bull Arena was completed and opened in 2010. A beautiful stadium, perhaps the best in the league. When it is filled with enthusiastic fans, you barely can hear yourself think it is so loud. Despite the club’s success, the team can’t get enough fans to fill the stadium on a regular basis. What a shame.
When he joined the Red Bulls in 2013, Bradley Wright-Phillips hadn’t made his mark as a consistent goal-scorer in his native England. He caught fire in MLS, connecting for 108 goals in 195 regular-season matches and 126 across all competitions. He won two Golden Boot crowns as well. He was released by the Red Bulls after the 2019 season, but he made his mark as one of the team’s most influential players in its 24-year history.
- Champions and survivalists
After a 29-year hiatus, the Cosmos returned to competitive soccer in 2013 and won three North American Soccer League titles (2013, 2015 and 2016). After the league went under in 2017, they haven’t grabbed the brass ring in the National Premier Soccer League or NPSL Members Cup. Perhaps the National Independent Soccer Association, for which they will compete in the fall season, will be the charm.
- March of the superstars
While the Red Bulls and NYCFC haven’t won a title in 29 combined seasons, we have been entertained by some of the best players on the planet, two in particular who were World Cup champions. For the Red Bulls, it was Thierry Henry (France, 1998), who realized his explosive burst of speed was waning near the end of his career, so he became more of a feeder than goal-scorer. For NYCFC, it was David Villa (Spain, 2010), who might have had a white-collar wage but brought a blue-collar work ethic to the game. At the present time there are no heir apparent of that stature for either team.
- The human highlight reel
In 2017, it seemed that Sam Kerr would produce magic and miracles week after week with her goal-scoring heroics for Sky Blue FC. Perhaps underrated by many observers on the rest of the planet, the Australian international eventually moved to the Chicago Stars after not wanting to return to less than mediocre conditions with the National Women’s Soccer League club. She recently signed with Chelsea (England). That is American soccer’s loss.
8. Stadium search
NYCFC was supposed to call Yankee Stadium for three years, tops. Well, the team is entering its sixth season at the old ballpark. There have been rumors and false starts through the years. The latest bit of news coming out of the Bronx is a possible soccer-specific stadium near baseball venue. We’ll see what the new year brings.
- Some Fordham magic
No metro college team has accomplished what St. John’s University did in 1996, when it captured the NCAA Division I men’s championship. Fordham University grabbed some headlines, winning in Atlantic Coast Conference country before succumbing in the quarterfinals. Still, it was fun to watch the Rams pull upset after week after week.
- Making history again
When she was a player, Kim Wyant was a pioneer as the first goalkeeper on the U.S. women’s national team. In 2015, the former Long Island Lady Riders standout became one of a handful of women coaching a men’s team at the college level at New York University. In 2018, Wyant took it a step further as the Violets reached the NCAA Division III tournament. Which barrier Wyant will break next?